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Digvijay overcomes aching back to move to tied second

Chiangmai: Digvijay Singh continued his fine march with three closing birdies in a row to post a second successive five-under 67 that put him within two shots of the leader, Prayad Marksaeng, at the inaugural USD 750,000 Chiangmai Golf Classic.

Digvijay, who achieved his breakthrough win last year after 12 years on the Asian Tour, is 10-under through 36 holes, while Marksaeng (65-67) is at 12-under.

Digvijay, who has been struggling with his form since he won the Indian Open last year, almost pulled out of the event after being struck by a severe back pain once again.

But, some advice from Jyoti Randhawa and a good massage from the physiotherapist got Digvijay going again. Now with two rounds of 67 each, he is two off the lead at the Alpine Golf Resort-Chiangmai.

Four other Indians made the cut, while five missed it. Himmat Rai, also ran into timely form with a fine 67 that pushed him up to six-under and tied 17th, while Gaganjeet Bhullar (70-70), Shiv Kapur (69-71) and Anirban Lahiri (71-69) are all at four-under in tied 41st place.

Randhawa (71-72), Sujjan Singh (72-71) and Rashid Khan (72-71) missed the cut by a shot, while SSP Chowrasia (71-73) missed it by two. C Muniyappa had retired in the first round.

"Actually I was thinking of going home yesterday because my back was troubling me. Jyoti (Randhawa) asked me to walk around to warm up a bit. Thankfully the Asian Tour`s physiotherapist did good work on my back and I`m feeling a 100 per cent," Digvijay said.

Digvijay, who defends his Indian Open title, next week at the Delhi Golf Club, is happy with his form.

"It was nice to finish with three birdies on seven, eight and nine (his closing holes). I lost my putting touch in the middle of the round. I hit it really close on a couple of occasions but didn`t convert them. I made a three putt on 15 and missed a four-footer on 14. It has been a long time.

"Since my win at the Indian Open, I haven`t done much. It has been a bit of a flash in the pan kind of performance so far (since last year)."

Digvijay also said the conditions were conducive to good scoring.

"I`ve putted well and hit my wedges close. This golf course is actually in favour of players because the ball is not rolling too hard. You can fire anywhere near the pins and you can rest assure the ball won`t roll off the green."

Prayad is a six-time Asian Tour winner, but has not won on the region`s premier tour since 2007. Prayad stuck to the cross-handed putting grip, which he changed midway through the first round.

Asia`s first Major champion Y E Yang of Korea, are hot on his heels. The Chiangmai Golf Classic carries 16 world ranking points this week.

Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, who needs a win in Chiangmai to qualify for the Masters Tournament, shot a fabulous 65 to move to tied second place with American Jonathan Moore (68) and Digvijay.

Hu Mu, playing on a sponsor`s invitation, stayed in the title hunt with a solid 69 for tied fifth place, three behind Prayad.

Asia`s first Major champion Y E Yang of Korea shot a 68 and will enter the weekend rounds four back while Ernie Els of South Africa, using a short putter for the first time in a long while, battled to a 71 for tied 41st place on 140.

Three-time Asian Tour number one Thongchai produced some wonderful golf to put himself in position to win and break into the world`s top-50, which is required to earn an invitation to the Masters Tournament next month.

Moore, who graduated from the Asian Development Tour in 2011 and finished seventh on the Asian Tour`s Order of Merit in 2012, said his carefree attitude on the course has given him a chance of landing a first Asian Tour title.

Els struggled to a 71 to fall eight shots off the pace.

The halfway cut was set at two-under-par 142 with a total of 71 players making the weekend rounds.