Nirat and Liang share 36-hole lead after matching 66s at Avantha Masters

Wen-chong Liang at the Avantha Masters
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Wen-chong Liang, the Avantha Masters co-leader after 36 holes, says he is playing some of his best golf ever this week.
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

Published: Friday, March 15, 2013 | 11:05 a.m.

GREATER NOIDA, India – Chapchai Nirat of Thailand and Wen-chong Liang of China both shot 66s for the second straight day on Friday, and share the halfway lead at the Avantha Masters. Coincidentally, both are looking to end six-year victory droughts on the European Tour. 

"I have played some of my best golf this week and I managed to hole several long putts," said Liang, whose victory came at the 2007 Singapore Masters. "I've learned to be patient and my playing experience from all over the world has taught me well."

Overnight leader Chinnarat Phadungsil, who had been five clear of the field after a stunning opening 61, fared 13 shots worse with a 74 that left him three behind the co-leaders on 9 under at Jaypee Greens Golf Club near Delhi.

Phadungsil had needed just 22 putts to card 11 birdies – seven of them in succession in a back nine of just 28 – in his opening 61, but found the going a lot tougher when he was first out Friday at 6:50 a.m. Starting from the 10th tee, he covered the back nine in 40 and also bogeyed the first, but birdies at the second, fourth and eighth rescued a respectable score.

Defending champion Jbe Kruger missed the halfway cut by three shots after a second 72 left him level par, while eight-time Order of Merit winner Colin Montgomerie was 150th after another 76.

Spain's Alvaro Quiros, playing his first tournament for four months after wrist surgery, made the cut by one shot at 4 under, as did former Ryder Cup player David Howell.

Meanwhile, David Drysdale of Scotland shrugged off the effects of a couple of sleepless nights to move into contention for his first European Tour title in 291 tries. Drysdale carded a second consecutive 67 for a halfway total of 10 under par that left him just two shots behind.

"The golf course gives you a lot of opportunities for birdies. The par 5s are all in reach, so it's been a steady two days," said Drysdale, who had five birdies and no bogeys. "I got through the turn today at 9 under and expected to be four or five behind at that point after the lad shooting 11 under yesterday, but saw he had come back to the field so that was a pleasant surprise.

"In the pro-am on Wednesday I was thinking it would be somewhere in the 20s under par that would win this week, especially if the weather stays like this and the wind doesn't get up," he added. "After someone shoots 11 under, you are just trying to shoot as many birdies as you can.

"When I first saw the course, I thought it was a bit of a bomber's paradise," he explained. "It looks wide from the tee, but actually it's not that wide and it's quite a good design, quite narrow, which suits me a little bit."

As for the trouble sleeping – hardly ideal before a 7:10 a.m. tee time on Friday, Drysdale added: "I only got a couple of hours sleep last night, which is strange because I was in Dubai for a couple of days so I should be more than used to the time change. I slept great the first couple of nights after I arrived, but the last two have been terrible."

England's Tommy Fleetwood, who won the European Challenge Tour in 2011 but only just retained his card last year by finishing sixth in his final event, was alongside Drysdale on 10 under after a 65, as were Thailand's Chawalit Plaphol (68) and Finland's Joonas Granberg (67).