manila.mastersChinese Taipei’s young guns Hung Chien-yao and Lee Chieh-po battled into a share of the halfway lead with South Africa’s Jbe Kruger at the US$1 million Resorts World Manila Masters on Friday.

Power-packed Kruger produced the day’s best card of seven-under-par 65 at the Manila Southwoods Golf and Country Club to join Hung and Lee atop the leaderboard on 10-under-par 134.

Hung, 23, shot a bogey-free 67 while 21-year-old Lee was one shot better after sinking an eagle and five birdies.

Overnight leader Nicholas Fung of Malaysia fought to a 69 in blustery conditions to slip one off the pace alongside Rufino Bayron, who posted a fine 66 to emerge as the leading Filipino in what is the richest golf tournament in the Philippines.

The 29-year-old Kruger, who holds one victory on the Asian Tour, was delighted to hit top form after a dismal season which has seen him yield one top-10 and plummet to 500th position in the world rankings.

“It’s fun to finally make some putts. I’m happy. I think I like to play in the wind. I’ve always liked it. Just need to get the putter going a bit more,” said the South African.

“I didn’t do anything different with my putting. I wasn’t hitting it to the hole, lagging a bit. So I was just trying to hit it a bit harder. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in contention. I’ve been hitting it well and I just need to make a few more putts.”

Ever-smiling Hung, who finished tied fourth here last season, also held the halfway lead in Macao last month before faltering over the weekend but believes he is wiser from the experience. He chipped in for birdie on the third hole which was the highlight of his day.

“I led in Macao but because of the lack of experience, I didn’t manage to take advantage of it. This time round, I hope to give myself another chance. If I don’t play well, it’s fine. My goal was to make the cut anyway,” he laughed.

“I wasn’t thinking about leading. Maybe that’s why I could play with no pressure. I just thought it’s still the second round and there is still a lot more to do. I don’t want to give myself too much pressure.”

Qualifying School graduate Lee is not overawed as he seeks a first win on the Asian Tour. “I am really looking forward to tomorrow. I won’t compete against the other players, I will just challenge myself. I actually haven’t played well since coming through Qualifying School. That was like a wake-up call for me. I told myself I need to buck up and finish inside top-60 on the Order of Merit to secure my card for next year.”

Fung, runner-up in Singapore last weekend, got the rewards for staying patient when the winds swirled around Manila Southwoods. “It was so much tougher this afternoon and we had rain as well. But I managed to stay patient, kept the ball in play all the time. I managed to get up and down a few times which was so good. Ended up with a 69, so I’m very happy,” said the 25-year-old Malaysian, who is also seeking a maiden Asian Tour title.

“I don’t want to put that (winning) in my mind. Of course I want to win but I don’t want to put pressure on myself. I want to play good, make birdies and if I can do that, I can be the winner.”

Resorts World Manila Masters partners include Manila Southwoods Golf and Country Club and supported by Marriott, Scientific Games, Aristocrat, IGT Asia Pte Ldt, Fuji Xerox, Konami, Levelwear, Mitsubishi Motors, RGD LTD, Net Pacific, Inc, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, Avis and Glenmorangie. 

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Scores after round 2 of the Resorts World Manila Masters being played at the par 72, 7,317 Yards Manila Southwoods GCC course (am – denotes amateur):

134 – HUNG Chien-yao (TPE) 67-67, LEE Chieh-po (TPE) 68-66, Jbe KRUGER (RSA) 69-65.

135 – Nicholas FUNG (MAS) 66-69, Rufino BAYRON (PHI) 69-66.

136 – Akinori TANI (JPN) 69-67, Tirawat KAEWSIRIBANDIT (THA) 69-67, Adam GROOM (AUS) 69-67.

137 – Paul PETERSON (USA) 70-67.

138 – Miguel TABUENA (PHI) 70-68, Masahiro KAWAMURA (JPN) 69-69, Rahil GANGJEE (IND) 72-66, Jeunghun WANG (KOR) 69-69, Arnond VONGVANIJ (THA) 72-66, Steve LEWTON (ENG) 70-68, Jhonnel ABABA (PHI) 70-68.

139 – Carlos PIGEM (ESP) 68-71, Niall KEARNEY (IRL) 70-69, Thaworn WIRATCHANT (THA) 73-66, Antonio LASCUNA (PHI) 70-69, Lionel WEBER (FRA) 72-67, Pariya JUNHASAVASDIKUL (THA) 71-68, Panuphol PITTAYARAT (THA) 73-66, Sukree OTHMAN (MAS) 71-68.

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