World number 24 Matt Kuchar of the United States showed class and resilience in equal measure during a second round 68 to lead the SMBC Singapore Open after the morning session at Sentosa Golf Club on Friday.
Kuchar overcame a double bogey at the fifth hole (his 14th of the day after starting at the 10th) to open up a two-stroke advantage over in-form Thai Gunn Charoenkul, Japan’s Tomoharu Otsuki and Rashid Khan of India with an eight-under-par total of 134 (66-68).
Three straight birdies on the 16th, 17th and 18th and another at the fourth hole saw Kuchar go to eight under for the tournament and equal with Gunn.
His double bogey at the fifth hole came after he took two shots to get out of a greenside bunker but in the fashion of one of golf’s elite he bounced back immediately with two straight birdies.
“I sure am (pretty pleased). It was good golf today. This morning was somewhat breezy – there were some difficult holes out there this morning and awfully glad to shoot another good round today and be in good position for the weekend,” said Kuchar, a nine-time winner on the PGA Tour who is playing his third tournament of 2020.
“Today I had a good number of putts drop in so it was a good two days and I am hoping to continue to take advantage of the par fives (over the weekend).”
Gunn, who had 20 top 10s in an amazingly consistent 2019, was cruising along in the lead after five birdies in 13 holes but bled four shots in a three-hole stretch from the sixth hole (his 15th of the day) as he went bogey, double bogey, bogey.
The 27 year old showed remarkable resolve to birdie his final hole for a one under 70 to keep alive his dream of capping off a great run of form with a victory.
Otsuki, who won the Kansai Open on the Japan Tour in 2019 and contended last week at the Hong Kong Open where he finished tied seventh, shot five birdies and just one bogey in an assured round of 67 in breezy conditions.
The pencil-slim Khan lost his playing rights on the Asian Tour in 2018 but the two-time winner has worked hard on his game and played well in Hong Kong where he finished sixth.
He carried that form into his second round with six birdies and just one bogey en route to a 66.
Angelo Que of the Philippines carded a 67 to move to five under 137, three shots off the lead, alongside Travis Smyth of Australia, who shot 68.
Kosuke Hamamoto, the overnight leader after an opening 65, Major winners Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, who opened their campaigns with matching 68s on Thursday, and defending champion Jazz Janewattananond (67) were among the afternoon starters.