Thongchai storms into the lead

Thongchai Jaidee has defied fatigue and the elements to grab a share of the second round lead at the Ballantine’s Championship.

Defending champion Thongchai Jaidee defied fatigue and the elements to card a superb five-under-par second round 67 that enabled him to grab a share of the clubhouse lead at the fog-delayed Ballantine’s Championship.

The Thai star moved to eight under par overall at the top of the leaderboard alongside Argentina’s Tano Goya.

They are playing at a blustery Pinx Golf Club on South Korea’s Juju Island where long fog delays on Thursday forced officials to shorten the event to 54 holes.

Nearly seven hours were lost to the fog invasion with the result that only half the field completed their second rounds on Friday, many of those having to play an excess of 30 holes in persistent winds of 15-20 miles per hour.

Asian number one Thongchai wrapped up his delayed first round on Friday morning with a three under par 69 before kick-starting his bid to defend his title in bright but testing afternoon conditions that made for as much as a four-club difference in shot selection.

“I played very well in both rounds today,” said the weary 40-year-old Thai, after playing 35 holes in 11 hours.

“I had a good game plan and also my putting is working this week.

“My irons are also very good – and they need to be as the wind is tough to play in on this course.”

Without hitting a ball today (Friday), first-round leader Marcus Fraser sits a shot off the pace tied for third on seven under par alongside fellow Australian Brett Rumford, who posted a second-round 70.

Fraser still has his second round to come on Saturday ahead of Sunday’s final round, while an imposing group including the in-form duo of Ernie Els and Anthony Kim also have 18 holes in hand and are just three shots further back.

“Everyone at six and seven under still has a chance this week,” added Thongchai.

“It depends on the weather tomorrow and hopefully the weather is getting better.

“If the weather gets very nice, you can get a low score tomorrow.”

Officials took the unusually early decision to cut the tournament to 54 holes even before some players had finished their first rounds, with a full tournament believed to be unlikely following Thursday’s delays and with uncertainty over the weather forecast.

Goya had earlier moved within one shot of day one pacesetter Fraser after carding just a solitary bogey in a six under par first round 66, which was capped off by a hat-trick of birdies.

The 21-year-old was level par through the first nine holes of his second round despite two birdies, but he crucially picked up two further gains on a flawless trip home to top the leaderboard after a 34 holes day.

“Putting was the key,” he said.

“I played very well on the greens and hit a lot of fairways. Because it was so windy I missed a lot of greens, but I saved a lot with the putts.”

Mark Foster’s first-round 66 still left the Worksop golfer ideally placed.

Foster, like playing partner Fraser and Robert-Jan Derksen – the runner-up to Thongchai following a play-off last year – improved to five under after a second-round 68 alongside Johan Edfors. The Swede battled to a 71.

PGA Championship winner YE Yang, meanwhile, is set to miss the cut after failing to recover from a five-over-par first round as a second round 73 left last week’s Volvo China Open winner set to disappoint the crowds on his home island.