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Ishikawa catches Chapchai with birdie blitz

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Japan star Ryo Ishikawa thrilled the early morning crowds on Saturday with four birdies in 10 holes to sign for a second round 66 and join Thailand’s Chapchai Nirat in the lead at the halfway mark of the SMBC Singapore Open

Ishikawa, one of his country’s most popular and successful players with 14 titles to his credit, completed his second round in style at Sentosa Golf Club.

He birdied the ninth, 10th, 14th and 17th holes for a seven-under total of 135.

The 26 year old, whose first win on the Japan Tour came when he was just 15, is trying to revive his career after a lean period and an injury layoff.

“I putted well today – the greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured out the speed,” said Ishikawa, who is nicknamed the ‘Bashful Prince’. “I am very happy to be here, at the top, but (there are) still 36 more holes to go.

“So I still need more concentration for this afternoon’s 18 holes.

“My tee shot is getting better, especially in the last nine holes. So if I could hit straighter, I can make more birdies in the next 18 holes.”

Ishikawa outscored playing partner Sergio Garcia, the Masters champion, when they returned to finish their second rounds on Saturday with birdies on the two par threes on the back nine highlighting his precision iron play.


Garcia dropped a shot at the ninth and birdied the 18th after a run of eight pars to card a 70.

“It felt like I hit the ball ok, my putting and all went great, but my speed hasn’t been great on the greens, let’s see if I can be a little bit more aggressive on the rounds this weekend,” said the world number 10.

“If I can shoot four or five-under later, (that) would be nice. Most importantly let’s see if we can finish the (third) round, that will be nice. But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.”

Garcia is tied with Tirawat Kaewsiribandit (70) and South Africa’s Shaun Norris (67), who completed their rounds on Friday, and Saturday finishers Masahiro Kawamura and Casey O’Toole. They are one stroke adrift of Chapchai and Ishikawa.

American O’Toole, who shot the first hole in one of the 2018 season during the first round, carded three birdies and two bogeys after the restart on Saturday for a 68 while Japan’s Kawamura birdied the 18th for a 67.

Chapchai, a four-time winner on the Asian Tour, exceeded his own expectations after a long slump to shoot a brilliant second round 64 and grab the clubhouse lead before rain halted play on Friday.

He lost his Asian Tour card last season and only made this week’s field because of his career earnings but all that was forgotten as he put in a performance reminiscent of some of his past successes.

There were notable performances from a trio of amateurs over the opening rounds. Two-time Singapore Open amateur champion Gregory Foo (69-69) and China’s Andy Zhang (72-66), who played the US Open when aged just 14, are in a big group tied for 12th on four-under 138. Jesse Yap of Singapore also made the cut after adding a 72 to his opening 68.

South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen, the former Open champion, and Asian Tour number one Gavin Green of Malaysia are also amongst those tied on four under, three strokes off the lead.

Among those who failed to make the cut, which came at even par, were defending champion Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand and 2016 winner Younghan Song of Korea. Prayad added a par 71 to his opening 72 to miss by a stroke while Song was a shot worse off.

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