Chinese-Taipei’s Chan Shih-chang sensationally took the halfway lead in the Royal’s Cup today after acing the par-three 16th and eagling the closing hole, a par five, at Grand Prix Golf Club.
The three-time Asian Tour winner, who led after day one with an eight-under-par 64, fired a 66 to lead on 14 under by two from Thailand’s Jakraphan Premsirigorn and American Sihwan Kim, who shot 62 and 65 respectively.
Thailand’s Sadom Kaewkanjana, winner of the SMBC Singapore Open last month, is a stroke further back after shooting 67, in the second event of the season on the Asian Tour.
Chan started poorly and went out in one over, seemingly out of the running, before his phenomenal closing stretch of holes which also included birdies on 14 and 15.
The 35 year old holed out with a seven iron from 173 yards on the 16th, for which he won a Toyota Camry 2.5 HEV Premium. It’s the second time he has made a hole in one in a professional tournament. He says on the first occasion in Chinese-Taipei many years ago he won a watch, and added it’s the seventh time he has made an ace.
“I really wasn’t expecting to ace the 16th,” said Chan.
“I did hit it to within one foot on the par-three 12th for birdie but my tee shots haven’t been that straight today. So, I really wasn’t expecting it. I didn’t see the ball go in. I heard a sound and I thought it just hit the flagstick but then I heard Berry’s [Henson] group and the caddies cheering on the 17th tee. This back nine 29 is my new personal best. Also, 14-under for two days is my lowest so far.”
He won the Blue Canyon Phuket Championship in November, which was the Asian Tour’s first event back after a 20-month break caused by the pandemic, but he’s struggled to find his form until this week.
Chan eagled the 18th after two brilliants shot to reach the green was followed by an eight foot putt.
He added: “The turning point came heading into the back nine. It was less windy in the afternoon too so that was an advantage. I was just aiming to shoot two under today because I didn’t start well and I wasn’t confident with my putting. Didn’t expect the ball to go in on 16, really.”
Jakraphan shot the lowest round of the week so far after making nine birdies and one eagle. Preferred lies were played so it could not stand as a course record.
“My putting was really great today,” said the Thai golfer, a winner on the Asian Development Tour in 2013 in Malaysia.
“When I hit the ball on the green, I made every birdie putt and when I missed the green, I can still make par. I had a backache coming into this week so today is very satisfying.”
Kim has come close to winning over the past few months, including finishing fourth in the Blue Canyon event and tied fourth in Singapore’s National Open.
But he says he’s not putting pressure on himself to claim what will be his first win as a professional.
“I try not to think about. I try and go day by day, shot by shot. Playing pretty well right now so hopefully that will continue on and hope for the best,” said the American.
‘In golf you have just got to be patient. You could be three or four behind, but catch a hot back nine on the last day, so you can’t get frustrated.”
Sadom says he has put his win in Singapore well and truly behind him as he focuses on winning more titles.
“I have changed already, now is a new season, I think only about the present now,” said the 23 year old, who is familiar with the Grand Prix course as he practised here with the Thailand national squad several years ago.
“You really have to play well off the tee to score well here and I did that today. It feels good.” He moved into contention again thanks to six birdies and just one bogey.
“I have missed only one fairway over the first two days. I had a lot of chances to make birdie even though this course is difficult,” he added.
The halfway cut was set at three-under-par with a total of 66 players making the weekend rounds at the Royal’s Cup.