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AIRIL AND SMITH TAKE CLUBHOUSE LEAD AT WORLDWIDE

Photo - Asian Tour

AIRIL AND SMITH TAKE CLUBHOUSE LEAD AT WORLDWIDE HOLDINGS SELANGOR MASTERS
 
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia: Malaysia’s Airil Rizman slipped into a share of the clubhouse lead with Australian duo Scott Barr and rookie Brad Smith after a topsy-turvy second round at the Worldwide Holdings Selangor Masters on Thursday.
 
Airil, the first round leader, battled to one-over-par 72 at Seri Selangor Golf Club to lead on four-under-par 138 with Smith, who carded a 69 and Barr, who fired an impressive 67.
 
The second round of the RM1.2 million (US$300,000) Asian Tour event was not completed due to a two-hour weather suspension, with 26 players having to return on Friday morning to finish their rounds.
 
Promising Thai youngster Namchoak Tantipokakul was five-under for the tournament through 15 holes while Thai-based American Corey Harris shot a 67 to move into contention on 139.
 
It was a memorable day for unheralded Filipino Ferdinand Aunzo who produced a rare albatross at the par five fifth hole with a seven iron, the first in three years on the Asian Tour.
 
Airil, the overnight leader, was probably wishing that his shots were finding their range as well after a mixed bag with one eagle, two birdies, three bogeys and one double.
 
“I wasn’t feeling too nice with my swing and pretty much pulled a lot of shots. I thought I could shoot one under or even par but I made double on 17. I messed up. I didn’t concentrate hard enough and it was a bad mistake,” said Airil, who hit only seven fairways and 11 greens.
 
The slightly built Malaysian said he was learning to enjoy playing golf again after a tough two-year spell where his form dipped after winning the 2007 Pakistan Open. “If you don’t enjoy it, it’ll be tough to play good,” he said.
 
The 26-year-old Smith, who came through the American collegiate system, stayed in the hunt for his first Asian Tour victory with a solid round highlighted by three straight birdies on the back nine, sparked by a 20-foot conversion on 12.
 
“I bogeyed the first before the horn went (for the weather suspension). When we went out again, I parred the next eight holes and then hit the three birdies. I’ve not been in this position since college. It’s a long time ago but I feel fairly comfortable with the pressure,” said the Adelaide-based Smith.
 
Namchoak, one of many new Thai stars bursting through the scene on the Asian Tour, was four under through 15 holes before play was stopped at 7.30pm. He made his charge with a chip-in eagle on the fifth and three birdies against a bogey.
 
“I’m driving it well the past two days which make things easier on this course. But the greens are difficult to putt on. It’s my first time being on the leaderboard in an Asian Tour event and I feel excited. I’m quite relaxed about it,” said Namchoak, who has won five small events but is searching for the big one.
 
Harris, winner of the Qualifying School in 2005, enjoyed a barnstorming inward 31, thanks to a hot putter. “I’ve struggled with my putting for a while. I’ve changed putters, changed stroke and it seems like every day or every week, I’m changing something. But the last few days, I’ve just stuck with what I had and finally they went in,” said Harris, who took only 24 putts.
 
A group of six players – England’s Chris Rodgers, India’s Anirban Lahiri and Filipino quartet Jay Bayron, Juvic Pagunsan, Mars Pucay and Angelo Que – lie two strokes behind the clubhouse leaders.
 
Sweet-swinging Pagunsan, who has registered top-three finishes in his last two Asian Tour events, enjoyed a blistering start by chipping in for birdie on two and rolling in a 25-footer for eagle on the fifth for an eventual 68.
 
“I think there’s a big chance for me to win here. I hit it well and it’s good to be putting well again. I was in contention in Brunei (last week) but a poor putting spell on the third day dashed my chances of winning,” said Pagunsan, who holds one win on the Asian Tour.

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