Trio share halfway lead in Taiwan Open


TAIPEI, AFP

South African Nico Van Rensburg and Taiwan duo Lu Chien-soon and Hsu Mong-nan shared the halfway lead in the US$300,000 Taiwan Open at the Sunrise Golf and Country Club in Taoyuan County Friday.

Strong winds on day one curtailed any below par scores, but in slightly calmer conditions Friday Van Rensburg, a three-time winner on the APGA Tour, fired a best of the day six-under-par 66, 11 shots better than his opening round.

Lu, winner of the Taiwan Open in 1998, carded a 69 while Hsu returned a 71.

One stroke behind are India’s Gaurav Ghei and Arjun Atwal, England’s Simon Dyson, South Africa’s Des Terblanche and Justin Hobday, and Taiwan’s Lin Chie-hsiang.

U.S. Masters champion Vijay Singh of Fiji shot a 72 to remain in contention at one over — two shots off the lead — while a 74 by joint first round leader Yeh Wei-tze of Taiwan put him two over.

“I hit it quite nicely and made a lot of putts. The greens were a little bit slow but conditions were quite a bit easier than the first round,” said 34-year-old Van Rensburg.

“I have not been playing well for the past couple of weeks in Taiwan. I’ve been working on a couple of things with my swing. I’ve just got to be patient. My first round wasn’t that bad, I just had a couple of bad holes.” In rainy and overcast weather Van Rensburg did well to cover the back nine in six-under-par 30 thanks to five birdies on the last six holes.

Lu was a prolific winner of national opens in Asia in the late 1980s but he has struggled since then with injuries and poor form.

However, renewed confidence from the tee helped Lu move to the top of the leaderboard.

“I have not been hitting my driver well for a long time. It’s been a mental thing but my confidence is coming back,” said Lu.

Unheralded Hsu is the surprise packet so far. The 27 year old has not won before in five years as a professional.

“I enjoy playing in windy weather so I hope it blows like day one at the weekend. Playing on the Davidoff (APGA) Tour has helped me a lot. I’m a much more experienced player now and have more confidence,” said Hsu.

Singh with his level par round rued his missed opportunities on the greens but said he was confident he can remain in contention over the final two rounds.

“I played OK but missed a lot of chances … I’ll take even par.

“I’m looking forward to the weekend. My putting stroke was OK and I made some nice putts but missed a couple of short ones,” said Singh.

“I still have a good chance to win. I played pretty average and am still very much in the hunt,” added the Fijian, a nine-time winner on the U.S. PGA Tour.

Defending champion Kang Wook-soon of Korea surprisingly missed the cut after adding a 79 to his first round 80. Kang won a domestic title in Korea last week but struggled with fatigue in Taiwan.

The cut was made at nine-over-par 153.