Charl Schwartzel (Getty Images)
South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel maintained his imperious form to race into a four shot clubhouse lead at the Thailand Golf Championship on Friday.
The 2011 Masters Tournament Champion, runner-up here last year, kept his foot on the pedal with a second straight seven under par 65 and a 14 under par 130 total at Amata Spring Country Club.
Following a 90-minute weather delay, Schwartzel and his playing partners ran to the 18th tee box to ensure they completed their second round. A total of 25 players will return at 7.10am on Saturday to finish their remaining holes, with round three not expected to start before 9am.
Daniel Chopra of Sweden renewed his love-affair with Asia by firing a 67 to trail in second place on 134 while Japan’s Masanori Kobayashi was a shot further back in third place after a 67.
Japanese star Ryo Ishikawa returned a fine 66, sprinkled with nine birdies, to move into contention on 136 while reigning Masters Tournament Champion Bubba Watson and Sergio Garcia were amongst those on 138.
After being in the chasing pack last year, Schwartzel was delighted to be the front-runner as he pursued his first title in 20 months after his Augusta National victory. The 28 year old was pleased to complete his round in near darkness which will give him a few precious extra few hours in bed on Saturday.
“It has been really solid,” he said. “I’ve put two great rounds together. I hit the ball nicely and gave myself a lot of chances. Those that I missed, I was fortunate to get up and down to save pars - those are the ones that keep the momentum.
“We were running to finish (the round). I didn’t want to come back at 5am to play one hole.”
With a stellar field chasing him, Schwartzel is keeping his feet firmly on the ground in his hopes of ending his title drought.
“It is still a long way to go. It’s half the job done. From my side, I just have to keep playing,” he added.
“I’ve been reading them (putts) well. The stroke feels good. I’ve gone through a long two years where I’ve missed a lot of putts. A few goes in, it’s nice.”
Ryder Cup star Garcia turned in 36 but charged home with three birdies in the closing five holes.
“I’m in a decent position,” he said. “I would like to do better for the weekend but hopefully if I get a good weekend then I might have a chance.”