Kuala Lumpur: Thailand’s Pariya Junhasavasdikul and American Ben Crane stormed to the top of the leaderboard after the second round of the CIMB Asia-Pacific Classic in steaming hot conditions on Friday.
Pariya, who made his breakthrough on the Asian Tour with victory at the Taiwan Masters this month, played a composed game to shoot a six-under-par 65 for a 131 total at the PGA Tour’s inaugural event in Southeast Asia.
Crane, playing in Malaysia for the first time, carded seven birdies in his bogey-free round of 64 to head into the weekend 11-under for the tournament.
They are a stroke clear of first round leader Ricky Barnes (69) and fellow American Ryan Moore (68).
Sweden’s Carl Pettersson is on his own in fifth, two off the pace, while Australia’s Adam Scott fired a blistering 65 for a share of sixth with world number eight Luke Donald and DJ Trahan of the United States.
Pariya, who sank eight birdies, said he struggled in the first seven holes, where he collected two bogeys.
“I was going left and right. My driver didn’t find the fairway at all,” he said.
“My putting is co-operating. My swing is good. I will just go out there and play my game. I will take one shot at a time.”
The 26-year-old said he was not just eyeing a win, but also gaining valuable experience, insisting he was not distracted by a potential one million pay day.
“I’ll go out there and play my own game. I am here to gain some experience and see how the big boys do. I’m not thinking about the money. I’m just thinking about the lessons I can learn from these guys,” he said.
Crane has two PGA Tour titles to his credit, the 2003 BellSouth Classic and 2005 US Bank Championship in Milwaukee, and he is desperate for another.
“I played great today. My goal coming out (here) was to execute the shots. I got off to a fast start. I made a birdie on the first and second holes,” said the 34-year-old.
“I finished strong. I did well by not thinking of the results.”
The evergreen Ernie Els is seven-under after stroking 68 to go with his first round 67.
“My game is okay,” said the big South African who won last week in Bermuda.
“I just need to put everything together. Now, knowing the course better, I need to put in a low one.”
Scott, who has won titles in China and Singapore previously, showed he was back to his best form after a month-long break in Australia.
After making two bogeys in his first four holes, the dashing Australian fired six birdies and an eagle from 25 feet on the 17th to move into contention.
“I certainly felt more comfortable out there, not only with the golf course but with the swing as well,” he said.
“I think there was a bit of rust after a month off. But getting back into a flow of competition golf can take some time and it felt good to put a good one up there today.”
The six million dollar event features only the leading 25 golfers from the PGA Tour’s FedExCup standings, along with the top 10 players from the Asian Tour and five sponsor exemptions.
The small field means there will be no halfway cut, with all 40 players teeing off each day as they gun for the one million dollars winner’s cheque.