Cool 'coconut' still up there
Thai youngster Panuphol battles extreme heat to lead by one
He could not replicate his sizzling form of Thursday, when he shot nine birdies for a superb 63 to take first-day honours at The Championship.
But, as the heat was turned up - literally - yesterday, Panuphol "Coconut" Pittayarat kept his cool, shooting a four-under 68 at Laguna National's Masters Course to lead by one stroke with a 13-under 131 total.
Starting from the 10th hole and finishing on the ninth, the 21-year-old Thai fired five birdies on the first, seventh, ninth, 10th and 15th holes to offset a bogey on the second to take pole position at the US$1.5 million ($1.88m) championship, co-sanctioned by the European Tour and Asian Tour.
His face flushed from the heat, Panuphol said yesterday: "The weather is really hot today.
"The two birdies in my last three holes were nice to end off my round.
"I really wanted to make that long putt (on the last hole) to take the outright lead and I am happy I did it."
Panuphol has not featured in the weekend rounds since the start of the season and he is delighted with his form this week.
He said: "It's nice to put myself in a good position heading into the last two rounds.
"I rather stay up there than to be chasing the lead. I just want to grab my chance and not let it go."
Hot on his heels are Chilean Felipe Aguilar, Australian Scott Hend and Korean-American David Lipsky, who are all tied for second on 12 under.
Hend was the best performer yesterday, posting a seven-under 65 with eight birdies and a lone bogey on 14th.
He said: "It's hard to keep your composure in such hot playing conditions.
"I am managing well so far, there are two more rounds to go and we will see what happens.
"After yesterday, I am guessing the winning score will be around 24 under to 28 under. Obviously, it depends on the weather as well.
"I have to keep pushing on, there's no stopping me. You can't stop, there are too many good players out there."
Lipsky struggled a little with the wind yesterday afternoon, but carded a 68 to keep pace with Panuphol.
The Korean-American said: "I didn't hit the ball as well as I did yesterday, but I think I scrambled well.
"I am happy to be in a good position now and I just want to keep doing what I am doing, and try to hole more putts tomorrow."
Seventy-two players made the cut, which was set at four under.
131: Panuphol Pittayarat 63-68
132: Scott Hend 67-65, Felipe Aguilar 65-67, David Lipsky 64-68
133: Anders Hansen 67-66, Rahil Gangjee 66-67, Baek Seuk Hyun 66-67
134: Arnond Vongvanij 65-69, Kristoffer Broberg 65-69
138: Lam Chih Bing 71-67, Quincy Quek 64-74
142: Mardan Mamat 71-71
144: Lam Zhiqun 69-75
145: Koh Dengshan 73-72
150: Poh Eng Wah 74-76
Joy for Quek and Lam, misery for Mardan
Quincy Quek and Lam Chih Bing will fly the Singapore flag at The Championship at Laguna National this weekend.
The duo are the only two Singaporeans among the 72 golfers who made the cut in the US$1.5 million ($1.88m) competition yesterday.
Tied for second on the first day, Quek chalked up three bogeys and a birdie to card a two-over 74 yesterday, lying in joint-34th position with a six-under 138 total.
His compatriot Lam improved on his opening 71 with a superb five-under 67 yesterday to make the cut.
A second successive one-under 71 wasn't enough for Singapore's No. 1 golfer Mardan Mamat, who missed the cut by two strokes with his two-under total of 142.
Other Singaporean golfers who failed to qualify for the weekend play were Lam Zhiqun (144), Koh Dengshan (145) and Poh Eng Wah (150). - LIM SAY HENG