Late birdies keep Chapchai in Order of Merit hunt
Thailand’s Chapchai Nirat kept his slim hopes of winning the Asian Tour’s UBS Order of Merit alive with birdies at the final two holes for a one-under-par 71 in the opening round of the Volvo Masters of Asia.
Chapchai outscored playing partner and Merit leader Liang Wen-chong of China by a stroke at Thai Country Club but is six behind leader Scott Strange of Australia.
The big-hitting Chapchai needs to win this week and Liang to finish out of the top three to be crowned Asia’s number one. He is US$95,005 behind Liang who has enjoyed a sterling season with one victory and eight other top-10 finishes.
"I do not want to think about the Order of Merit," said Chapchai, a two-time winner in 2007. "I have already surpassed my expectations by moving up to second – my goal this year was a top 10 finish.
"I am not really chasing a victory this week – I do not want to put extra pressure on myself."
Chapchai, nicknamed "King Kong" by his peers, was struggling at one over par after 16 holes before his grandstand finish.
"It was a good way to end," said the burly 24-year-old. "I had a birdie on 17 and then chipped in for another one at the last. I drove the ball quite well today and my irons were good but I did not putt well – I had 27 putts."
Liang, who has led the race for the prestigious Order of Merit crown since May, bogeyed the third hole but went to one under for his round with an eagle at the fourth.
A birdie at the seventh saw him reach the turn in two under par but he dropped a shot at the 10th hole and slipped behind Chapchai with a bogey at the last which he three-putted.
"My putting was average," said the 29-year-old from Zhongshan. "I missed a few short putts which was disappointing and three putted the 18th for bogey. I have to go practice my putting now.
"We will not know what will happen tomorrow. If the pins are tough, then it will be tough to score. I am hitting the ball good. So I just need to sort out the putting."
Click here for first round leaderboard
December 6, 2007