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Manila: Himmat Rai of India and local hope Jay Bayron stayed in the hunt for their maiden Asian Tour victory after sharing the halfway lead at the ICTSI Philippine Open on Friday.

Rai posted a two-under-par 70 to tie with Bayron, who returned with a 69, on a two-day total of six-under-par 138 in the US$300,000 event held at the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club.

Rookies Berry Henson of the United States and Daisuke Kataoka of Japan were a stroke back with South African Jbe Kruger, who finished second on three occasions last year. 

Thailand’s Panuphol Pittayarat bounced back from two opening bogeys with a solid 69 to lie in sixth place, two strokes from the leaders.

Rai, 23, was on seven-under after 15 holes but swirling winds threw him off track when he dropped his second bogey of the day on the 16th hole.

“It was hot out there and the wind picked up later in the afternoon. The wind was swirling but I managed my shots well to give myself a chance in the weekend,” said Rai. 

He hopes there will not be a repeat of last week’s tournament where he was in contention at the Impian Classic in Malaysia on the Asian Development Tour before finishing in tied fifth place. 

“There’s always a huge learning curve in golf and the one thing I took back from last week was how to handle myself. I think I’ve done that pretty well in these two days,” added the Indian.

Bayron fired four birdies against one bogey with the highlight of his round coming on the 14th hole when his eagle attempt from 97 yards out stopped mere inches from the cup.

He was introduced to the game of golf at the age of 13 when he caddied in a local golf club. He joined the national team six years later and took the plunge in the play-for-pay ranks in 2008.

“This is a very difficult golf course and I’m very surprised to shoot six-under after two rounds. Winning on the Asian Tour especially my national Open will be a dream come true,” smiled the 32-year-old.

Henson, 31, continued his rich vein of form after winning the Clearwater Masters in Malaysia on the Asian Development Tour two weeks ago.

He was delighted to be in the mix when he made a pivotal up-and-down par save on the 17th hole after his tee shot found the fairway bunker.

“I felt like I escaped with my score. If I can get my putter going, I will be dangerous in the weekend,” said Henson.

Thailand’s rising star Panuphol kept his emotions intact after two early bogeys and was rewarded with five birdies as he returned with 69.

“I was frustrated when I bogeyed the first two holes but I tried to maintain my tempo and emotions. My goal was to make the cut but now I’m hoping to finish in the top-five,” said the 18-year-old, who sank three straight birdies from the 13th hole.

The halfway cut was set at four-over-par 148 with a total of 65 players making the weekend rounds.

The International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), which is in the business of acquiring, developing and operating container ports and terminals worldwide, is title sponsoring the Philippine Open. 

The co-sponsors of the ICTSI Philippine Open include San Miguel Corporation (Official Beer), Globe Telecom (Official Telecommunications Provider), Lexus (Official Car), HSBC (Official Banking Partner), Splash Corporation (Official Personal Care Sponsor) and Ayala Land (Official Land Developer) while Srixon (Official Golf Ball), Ricoh (Office Solutions Partner), BlackBerry (Official Mobile Partner), Inetol (Official Headwear Supplier), Motorola (Official Radio Supplier), Label 5 (Official Whisky Supplier) and Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria (Official Hotel) will support the event as official suppliers.

Scores after round 2 of the ICTSI Philippine Open 2011 being played at the par 72, 7222 Yards Wack Wack GCC course (a- denotes amateur):

138 - Jay BAYRON (PHI) 69-69, Himmat RAI (IND) 68-70.

139 - Berry HENSON (USA) 69-70, Jbe KRUGER (RSA) 71-68, Daisuke KATAOKA (JPN) 70-69.

140 - Panuphol PITTAYARAT (THA) 71-69.

141 - WANG Ter-chang (TPE) 69-72.

142 - Lucas LEE (BRA) 72-70, BAEK Seuk-hyun (KOR) 73-69, Peter KARMIS (RSA) 69-73, Mars PUCAY (PHI) 69-73, Digvijay SINGH (IND) 70-72, Prom MEESAWAT (THA) 70-72, Juvic PAGUNSAN (PHI) 73-69.

143 - Takafumi KAWANE (JPN) 70-73, Namchok TANTIPOKHAKUL (THA) 72-71, Chapchai NIRAT (THA) 72-71, Darren BECK (AUS) 71-72, Pariya JUNHASAVASDIKUL (THA) 71-72, SIDDIKUR  (BAN) 71-72, Kwanchai TANNIN (THA) 73-70.

Selected scores

147 – Thanyakon KHRONGPHA (Tha) 68-79

148 – Frankie MINOZA (Phi) 76-72

149 – Rikard KARLBERG (Swe) 74-75

Photo - Asian Tour

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