Defending champion Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand birdied the 18th hole for a sparkling six-under-par 65 to grab the lead at the halfway mark of the SMBC Singapore Open on Friday.
On-song Jazz has a two-round total of 10 under 132 and is a stroke ahead of teen sensation Joohyung Kim of Korea, in with a 66, and Filipino Miguel Tabuena, who matched Jazz’s 65
The heavyweight duo of American Matt Kuchar, leader after the morning session on Friday following a 68, and world number nine Justin Rose of England, who shot 66, are two shots adrift of the titleholder.
Richard T. Lee of Canada carded a 69 in fading light and is in sole possession of sixth place, a stroke behind Rose and Kuchar.
Thailand’s Gunn Charoenkul, Japan’s Tomoharu Otsuki and Rashid Khan of India are tied for seventh place, four shots back, at the magnificent Sentosa Golf Club.
Play was suspended at 7.26 pm and the late starters will finish off their second rounds on Saturday morning starting at 7.40 am. The cut line currently stands at +1.
World number 38 Jazz started slowly and slipped back with a bogey at the second hole. But the 24 year old, who has been in brilliant form since winning last year’s SMBC Singapore Open soon found his stride and carded seven birdies.
Jazz said he would need his ‘A’ game over the weekend to hold off expected challenges from Rose and Kuchar.
“Yeah, you know that everyone is bringing their A game into the weekend. You just got to try and bring yours and do what you have to do,” said Jazz, who won four times on the Asian Tour in 2019.
“Well, there’s still two more days and anything can happen. There are a lot of good players here. Kuchar and Rose are well within reach and I will just stick to my plan and hopefully will take a win for the weekend.”
At just 17, Kim continued to belie his years with assured play and went bogey-free over the dangerous Serapong course.
Kim is making his debut at the SMBC Singapore Open after winning the Panasonic Open on just his third start on the Asian Tour last year.
“I’m not sure (how I feel), I think I have to wake up tomorrow to see how I feel,” said Kim, who won three times on the Asian Development Tour in 2019 to earn playing rights on the main Tour.
“I’m just really glad that I am giving myself this opportunity again. I’ve been pretty solid so far so I hope to keep it up.
“I’m just not trying to get ahead of myself and just trying to take it step by step.”
Tabuena, joint fourth here in 2016 and eighth two years later, continued his love affair with the SMBC Singapore Open with his flawless 65.
Rose started with a three-putt bogey for the second day but got the shot back right away. He set himself the goal of picking up shots at the end of the round and succeeded with birdies in three of his last four holes.
“I three putted the first hole of the day again, exactly like yesterday, but then luckily, a bit of a mirror image of yesterday, went three putt bogey, birdie,” said the Olympic gold medallist.
“I found it tricky to start with just judging the wind. Our side of the draw got luckier I think over the two days than the other half. The wind was up and down today which made it difficult but I could see that six under was still in good position.
“My round was still quite flat on the front nine but I knew I just had to stay patient and I waited for things to change and I had a nice back nine and a good finish birdieing three of the last four holes.”
He paid the ultimate compliment to playing partner Jazz, saying it was hard to stay with him.
“Tough to keep up with Jazz you know – he is playing well, putting well and he looks so solid. He looks in control of his game and his mind and his emotions and obviously likes this golf course,” commented Rose.
“I had one eye on him just trying to stay close.”
World number 24 Kuchar of the United States showed class and resilience in equal measure during his morning 68 overcoming a double bogey at the fifth hole (his 14th of the day after starting at the 10th) to grab the clubhouse lead.
He bounced back immediately from the double bogey with two straight birdies to underline his resolve.
“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 during the morning session 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 birdied 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.
Kosuke Hamamoto, the overnight leader after an opening 65, slipped down the field after a four over 75.
Sweden’s Henrik Stenson also fell back after adding a 72 to his opening 68 while Japan star Ryo Ishikawa, playing in the same group as Jazz and Rose, shot 73 and is 10 strokes adrift of the lead.
Among those missing the cut were previous winners Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand, Indians Jeev Milkha Singh and Jyoti Randhawa and Zaw Moe of Myanmar.
Singapore’s top player in the world rankings, Quincy Quek, and crowd pleaser Hosung Choi, the player with the ‘Fisherman’s Swing’ will also miss out on the weekend play.