Changhwa, Chinese Taipei, December 27: Overnight leader Donlaphatchai Niyomchon of Thailand stayed on track for his maiden Asian Development Tour (ADT) title after battling to an even-par 72 to retain his one-shot edge at the halfway stage of the Taifong Open on Friday.
The 29-year-old Thai, who had opened his campaign with a 67, marked his card with four birdies against two bogeys and a double-bogey in blustery conditions to remain atop the leaderboard with a five-under-par 139 total at the highly acclaimed Taifong Golf Club.
Local prospect Tseng Tzu-hsuan and Thai teenager Atiruj Winaicharoenchai returned with matching rounds of 69s to share second place at the US$160,000 event, which is celebrating its sixth consecutive edition on the ADT this week.
Thailand’s Itthipat Buranatanyarat battled to a 72 to lurk two shots off the pace in fourth place alongside compatriot Peradol Panyathanasedh (69), Japan’s Daisuke Yasumoto (68), Singapore’s Gregory Foo (71), local veteran Lien Lu-sen (68) and Korea’s Seung Park (71).
“I fought well today. It was windy and cold out there, very different from yesterday. I didn’t putt as well as I did yesterday but I’m happy to finish well with two birdies in my last three holes,” said Donlaphatchai, who sits in 94th place on the Order of Merit.
Playing in only his seventh start on the ADT this year, Donlaphatchai needs a victory at the season finale to give himself a chance at breaking into top-seven on the final rankings and secure his Asian Tour card for 2020.
Tseng, also chasing for his first ADT win, said: “I hit a lot of greens today. That helped a lot. I made 30 putts in total but I think it’s still alright because the greens are really challenging here. The pin positions are difficult too. I am happy with the way I played today.”
Atiruj, who has claimed three top-five finishes on the ADT this season to sit in 24th place on the Order of Merit, kept up his chase for an Asian Tour card by firing five birdies against two bogeys for a commendable 69.
“I hit it close to the pins and I hit a lot of greens. It was windy and the greens are firm. The game’s trending in the right direction. I hit a very good second shot on the par-five 17th to about 10 feet. Missed the eagle chance there but it’s still a good hole,” said the 19-year-old, who is making his debut appearance in the Taifong Open this week.
A total of 63 players, including one local amateur, survived the halfway cut set at four-over-par 148 in the popular event, which was inaugurated as the richest event on the ADT in 2014.
Defending champion Chan Shih-chang of Chinese Taipei and ADT Order of Merit leader Naoki Sekito of Japan made the cut right on the mark after registering identical rounds of 74 at the 2019 ADT season finale.
The leading seven players, not otherwise exempted, on the final 2019 ADT Order of Merit following the conclusion of the Taifong Open on Sunday will earn their Asian Tour cards for the 2020 season.