One-shot halfway lead for Hsu

Eastwood Valley’s club operations manager and resident professional Sofian Kepli leads the local charge ©PGM

Miri: Hsu Mong-nan of Chinese Taipei preserved his lead at the PGM Eastwood Valley Masters by shooting a second round score of one-under-par 71 on Thursday. 

Hsu holds a one-shot advantage over Filipino Jay Bayron, who also returned with a 71, at the US$80,000 Asian Development Tour (ADT) event, which is part of the 30th anniversary celebration of Eastwood Valley’s holding company, Woodman Group.

Eastwood Valley club operations manager Sofian Kepli, who is an accomplished professional, led the local charge, firing a 67 to lie in tied third place with Korea’s Park Jin-woo (71) on 140 at the Eastwood Valley Golf and Country Club.

Hsu got off to a fast start with a birdie on the first hole but returned a shot on 16. He rallied on his homeward nine with three birdies but three putted from close range on hole eight as he settled for double bogey and a seven-under-par 137 total.

“Putting is very important. The greens are very tricky and whoever putts the best will win. I still have a lot of work to do. There are many talented players who can shoot a low score here,” said Hsu, currently 10th on the ADT Order of Merit courtesy of a second place result at the Ballantine’s Taiwan Championship in August.

Having played on the Asian Tour since 1997, Hsu believes he has the experience to hold off the strong challenge from Bayron as he chases his first ADT win.

“I’ve played on the Asian Tour for many years so I think I have more experience. In terms of ball striking, we are all equally good so I have to be patient on the greens and put my experience to good use,” said the 38-year-old.

Bayron, a two-time ADT winner and currently third on the Order of Merit, believes he is in prime position of launching a title assault after firing three consecutive birdies from the 11th hole against two bogeys.

“I like to come from behind and win,” smiled Bayron. “I think I’m in very good position and struggled a bit with the putter today. If I can get the putter going, I will have a chance of winning.”

Park, whose best finish on the ADT was tied 13th in Johor earlier this year, stayed in touch with the leader with a round of 71 and will rely on his hot irons on the last two days.

“I’m striking my ball very well. All my birdies were close and I hope I can continue it again. If I can find the fairways then I know I’ll be in position of attacking the greens,” said the 19-year-old Park.

Malaysia’s Akhmal Tarmizee has not enjoyed the best of results since finishing third on the 2010 ADT Order of Merit as he struggled with a wrist injury last year. After taking time to recuperate, Akhmal is showing signs of a return to form when he shot a 69 to lie five shots from the lead.

“My form hasn’t been good since I earned playing opportunities on the Asian Tour in 2011. I suffered a wrist injury and didn’t practise enough because it hurt after hitting 100 balls. I recovered earlier this year and started putting in more practice which seems to be paying off now,” said the 22-year-old.

The halfway cut was set at seven-over-par 151 with a total of 55 players making it through to the last two days.

Leading second round scores
137 – Hsu Mong-nan (TPE) 66-71
138 – Jay Bayron (PHI) 67-71
140 – Sofian Kepli 73-67, Park Jin-Woo (KOR) 69-71
142 – Akhmal Tarmizee Nazari 73-69, Chiang Chen-chih (TPE) 70-72, Sukree Othman (MAS) 69-73
143 – Hirotaro Naito (JPN) 69-74, R. Nachimuthu 70-73, Mhark Fernando (PHI) 70-73, Nicholas Fung (MAS) 73-70
144 – Mitsuhiko Hashizume (JPN) 72-72, Jeremiah Kim 70-74, James Byrne (SCO) 74-70, Carl Santos-Ocampo (PHI) 72-72, Chang Yao-pin (TPE) 73-71, Rance De Grussa (AUS) 70-74