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HIRATSUKA OPENS UP FIVE-SHOT LEAD AT AIR BAGAN
 
Photo - Asian Tour 
 
HIRATSUKA OPENS UP FIVE-SHOT LEAD AT AIR BAGAN MYANMAR OPEN
 
Japan’s Tetsuji Hiratsuka produced another sterling performance to open up a commanding five-shot lead after the second round of the Air Bagan Myanmar Open presented by IBTC on Friday.
 
Hiratsuka posted a sizzling seven-under-par 65 for a two-day total of 15-under-par 129 in the US$300,000 event, which is making a return on the Asian Tour Schedule after a four-year hiatus.
 
Countryman Hideto Tanihara and Thailand’s Prayad Marksaeng lie in tied second after rounds of 66 and 68 respectively while current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Andrew Dodt of Australia and Corey Harris of the United States are on 135 at the Pun Hlaing Golf Club.
 
Amateur Yan Myo Aye, 20, flew the Myanmar flag high after adding a second consecutive 68 for equal sixth place on 136 alongside 2006 Asian Tour number one Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand, who battled to a 65, Myanmar Masters champion Gavin Flint of Australia and Malaysia’s Ben Leong.
 
“It is unbelievable to have such a wide lead but I still need to keep my focus on the next two rounds,” said Hiratsuka, who has two third place finishes in the Asian Tour International in Thailand and Avantha Masters in India this season.
 
Hiratsuka, a five-time winner on the Japan Tour, rued a cold putter on the back nine but was delighted when he holed an eight foot eagle putt on the seventh hole followed by a birdie on the eighth hole. 
 
“That was a good way to finish. After my first nine, I made six consecutive pars because my putts were not dropping. My putting and iron shots weren’t that good but it was my tee shots that pulled me up,” said Hiratsuka, who is searching for his first Asian Tour victory.
 
Prayad struggled in the sweltering heat but was confident of his chances of closing in on the leader over the weekend. “The weather was so hot and I was losing energy. If my stamina was higher I would have had a better score. I should have taken more advantage of the par fives. I only managed to birdie two of four par fives which was disappointing,” said the six-time Asian Tour winner.
 
“To be five strokes off the lead is still okay as it is still the second round. I’m still giving myself a chance,” added the Thai.
 
With two top-20s so far this season, Tanihara was delighted with his chip-in shots from 10 yards on the fifth and 15th holes. “I played the same golf as I did yesterday (Thursday) but the conditions this morning were much easier. It will be tougher when the wind picks up,” said Tanihara, who is also a six-time winner in Japan.
 
“My game has been good but the heat will be a real challenge for the golfers. Luckily I had my umbrella with me!” he added.
 
Playing from the back nine, Dodt had five consecutive one putts from the 18th hole which helped him score. “There’s always wind in the afternoon and less in the morning so you have to take advantage of that. I knew the scores are out there because it isn’t really a long course. You just need to keep your ball on the fairway and you have a shot at the pins and that’s what I managed to do,” said Dodt, winner of the Avantha Masters in India in February.
 
Aye surprised even himself when he battled to the top of the leaderboard highlighted by a 30 feet birdie putt on the sixth hole. “I didn’t expect to play so well. I was nervous but I’m glad to be playing so well and making it through to the weekend,” said Aye, who represented Myanmar in the 2009 Putra Cup and Southeast Asian Games.
 
Leading second round scores
 
129 - Tetsuji Hiratsuka (JPN) 64-65
134 - Hideto Tanihara (JPN) 68-66, Prayad Marksaeng (THA) 66-68
135 - Andrew Dodt (AUS) 68-67, Corey Harris (USA) 67-68
136 - Thaworn Wiratchant (THA) 71-65, Gavin Flint (AUS) 66-70, Yan Myo Aye  [A] (MYN) 68-68, Ben Leong (MAS) 69-67
137 - Gaurav Pratap Singh (IND) 67-70, Kenichi Kuboya (JPN) 69-68, Pijit Petchkasem (THA) 68-69
138 - M. Sasidaran (MAS) 67-71, Lam Chih Bing (SIN) 69-69, Lin Wen-tang (TPE) 67-71, Boonchu Ruangkit (THA) 70-68, Anirban Lahiri (IND) 70-68, Scott Hend (AUS) 67-71, Pariya Junhasavasdikul (THA) 67-71, Ferdinand Aunzo (PHI) 70-68
 
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