Thailand’s Itthipat Buranatanyarat said this week he has benefited greatly from playing in two star-studded LIV Golf Invitational events this year, and it showed today as he added a second round five-under-par 67 to his first round 64 to take the lead in the US$500,000 Mandiri Indonesia Open.
Korea’s Minkyu Kim, winner of the Kolon Korea Open in June, and American Berry Henson, chasing his first win on Tour in 11 years, both carded 67s to sit two back.
Weather delays on Thursday meant the event is playing catch up: 24 players were unable to finish today. They include Hong Kong amateur star Taichi Kho, the joint-first round leader with Itthipat, and Chinese-Taipei’s Chang Wei-lun. Kho is 11 under with four to play and Chang 12 under with two to go.
“Today I started with not hitting my tee shots so well; I hit hooks on three holes in a row. But I tried to get my confidence back, and it came back,” said Itthipat.
“Then I started hitting the fairways so I could hit the greens. So today was one more round for me with no bogeys, bogey free again two days in a row. So yeah, I feel good.
“I have a new good partner, my caddie Jee. Oh, he pushed me. When we have weeks off he’s pushed me to practice, we work together all the time. You know a good partner means I can talk to him about everything which makes me more confident. Everything is better. I got some new ideas playing with the highly ranked players at the LIV London event, it changed my mind set to do something I never did before. Perspective changes when you are surrounded by better players and see how they play.”
Minkyu Kim, the 21 year old who won on Europe’s Challenge Tour when he was 17 in 2018, is one of his country’s great young hopes and is clearly in the mood for more success.
“I’ve played pretty solid since Korea and this is my first Asian Tour event since winning the Kolon Korea Open; so, I’m very excited to be in contention this weekend,” he said.
“I feel much more confident when I am in contention now, and I think I can get this, I can get another win. So, a lot of positive things coming to me.”
Hua Hin-based Henson, one of the Tour’s most consistent players who hasn’t missed a cut since the Tour restarted last year after COVID-19, set himself a challenge this week.
“Yeah, fantastic. Yeah, feel great,” said the 43 year old.
“I mean, I set a little goal for myself this week and made a little hiccup today on that goal, but, but other than that, I’m very pleased with where I’m at.
“I kind of wanted to come in this week and try not to make any doubles, no bogeys on the par fives, and no three putts. But I lost a little focus on number five today and three putted from about 20 feet. It was a little tricky pin.”
His last win came at 2011 Philippine Open.
He added: “I went back home for four weeks, and I changed up a few things with my team, and I hired a new coach and we created more of a team atmosphere. I think that’s what I’m missing from being away from home so much. In Thailand I’m kind of by myself so we put a little bit more emphasis on kind of like creating more of a team atmosphere, and that seems to be paying off so far.”
Thailand’s Atiruj Winaicharoenchai carded the best round of the week so far, a 63 and is three behind the leaders. Preferred lies are being played so it is not a course record.
“Yeah, I just want to play under par every round, that’s my goal. Just play my best and after that, I’ll take it,” said the Thai golfer, who has won twice on the All Thailand Golf Tour this year.
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