American Dodge Kemmer backed up his opening round eight-under-par 64 with a fine 66 to take a two-shot at the halfway mark of the International Series Thailand at Black Mountain in Hua Hin.
The 35-year-old leads the way on 14-under, ahead of the giants of golf in Thailand, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Jazz Janewattananond.
Kemmer is an emerging story. At last year’s season-ending Indonesian Masters in December he agonisingly missed keeping his Asian Tour card by one place on the Order of Merit (OOM), but immediately bounced back with two top-four finishes on the Asian Development Tour (ADT), which helped to finish in the top 10 the ADT OOM, which also provides passage on to the Asian Tour.
He said: “[After the Indonesian Masters] I had to turn around the next week and go and play ADT and I did really well those two weeks. I came back nicely, and I was proud of myself, to earn my card from the ADT season.”
The American caught the birdie train again on Friday, making eight and dropping just two shots. He was 15-under with two to play but his final bogey of the day came on his penultimate hole.
“I have been hitting it nicely, struggled on the greens last week, but if I can get a few more of those to fall I will be right in there,” said Kemmer, whose best finish on the Asian Tour is third at the Bangladesh Open in 2017. “It would be great [to win this week], it was tough last year.
“The greens were super fast in the practice rounds, they have slowed down a little bit but they are still really good. You have to think your way into the greens, and around the greens. There are no easy two putts, especially above the hole, so it takes a lot of strategy and I enjoy going through that.”
Kiradech, the Asian Tour Order of Merit champion 10 years ago and a three-time winner on Tour, got off to a surprisingly slow start, going round his first nine in even, par but ripped through the second half in five-under.
“I am very happy with my first two rounds, especially the way I started today quite slow,” the Thai star said.
“My putter was a little cold, couldn’t sink any birdie on the front nine. One single birdie, one three putt. I woke up on the back, birdied five of first six holes, they helped me get back into it.
“I don’t think I am far off from my ‘A’ game, but to be honest I know I shot good scores over first two rounds, but it’s not my ‘A’ game out there, I left a couple of strokes out there. I think I know what I have in my pocket, I am playing quite smart, in middle of the green sometimes, which is not normally my game. But I am concentrating on everything and focusing.
Jazz, the Tour’s No. 1 in 2019, is enjoying performing well on what is his home course and where he says he rarely excels in tournaments.
“I’m pretty happy,” he admitted. “I mean, before the tournament I didn’t have much of an expectation, because it’s my home course and I’ve never really performed well, but just changed a lot of my mentality this year. Just take it easy, do whatever, if it comes it comes.”
Last year’s International Series Morocco winner added: “I feel like every year so far when I play my home course, I take it so seriously. I’m not even like stressed out about the tournament this time, but more like practising, grinding it out and stuff.
“Just because when I’m at home I feel like I have to practice, and if I don’t practice, I feel like I’m missing out. So, this year, I just take it very easy, didn’t even do much practice and just come out here and chill. And the score kind of perform a lot better than the past year, so maybe going forward I’ll do this.”
🚨ACE ALERT🚨@johnlyras96 sinks the first hole-in-one of the season on the 11th hole at the @bmgolfclub!🕳️⛳#ISthailand #InternationalSeries #whereitsAT pic.twitter.com/5KU7RFUFzC
— Asian Tour (@asiantourgolf) March 10, 2023
India’s Honey Baisoya came in with a 62, helped by a front nine of eight-under-par 28, but as preferred lies are being played it could be counted among the official records. Meanwhile, Australia’s John Lyras managed a hole-in-one on the 190-yard 11th hole with a 7 iron.