Chapchai rekindles old magic

Chapchai rekindles old magic

Chapchai Nirat poses with his lookalike driver head cover during the second round of the Yeangder TPC. (Photo: Asian Tour)
Chapchai Nirat poses with his lookalike driver head cover during the second round of the Yeangder TPC. (Photo: Asian Tour)

Linkou: Four-time Asian Tour winner Chapchai Nirat proudly declared "my game is back" after firing one of his best tournament rounds for a considerable period of time, an eight-under-par 64, to take a two-shot lead halfway through the Yeangder TPC at Linkou International Golf and Country Club in Taipei yesterday.

The Thai has notably been absent for many seasons -- the last of his victories on the Asian Tour came in 2014 -- but glimpses of his old form were on display yesterday when he made nine birdies before dropping his only shot on the penultimate hole.

Defending champions Lee Chieh-po (68) of Taiwan, India's Ajeetesh Sandhu (68), a winner here in 2017, Thailand's Settee Prakongvech (66), and Berry Henson from the United States (67) sat in second place.

But it was Taiwanese teenage amateur Hsieh Cheng-wei who grabbed much of the attention after adding a 74 to his opening 69 to reach one under and become the youngest male player to make the cut on one of the game's main tours.

At 14 years and 33 days, he beat the previous record of China's Guan Tianlang, set at the 2013 Masters, when he was 14 years and 169 days.

Chapchai, 39, said: "I have been working with my coach for the last five months. I was teaching juniors for a while but then I went back and worked hard for five-six months, and on my fitness too.

"Today my putting was really good, but my tee shots were going a bit left and right in today's strong winds. The greens are also better this year. Yes, my game is back!"

In his heyday, Chapchai shot 32-under-par over 72 holes to claim the 2009 SAIL Open in India -- setting a new Asian Tour record for the best 72-hole score -- and he is looking to get back on track shooting low scores regularly again.

"I'm starting to have some confidence back from the past three events. I'm starting to play a bit better," he said.

"Now I can see shooting minus seven or minus eight in a day, so I feel a lot more confident with my new game with this coach now. For the next year I'm planning to be in top 10 again in a lot of tournaments, and I'm planning to come back and win again."

Hsieh said: "My calculations weren't accurate today. I didn't putt well and didn't hit it good off the tee especially on the back nine.

"It's not that tough out there. I just didn't play my best game.

"I got nervous towards the end because I wasn't playing well."


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