Nirat, Dyson share lead at soggy Singapore Open
SINGAPORE — Rain severely disrupted play at the Singapore Open again on Friday, with golfers being shuttled on and off the course and half the field unable to even start the second round.
Thailand’s Chapchai Nirat and England’s Simon Dyson shared a one-stroke lead at 6-under par midway through the second round before play was halted for the second straight day because of thunderstorms.
Chapchai has nine holes left to play and Dyson has five. Three golfers were tied for third at 5 under — Italians Matteo Manassero and Francesco Molinari and Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn.
After storms cut play short on Thursday, organizers were forced to complete the first round on Friday morning.
Chapchai was among those on the course early Friday and finished off a first round of 6-under 65 to surge into the lead. Dyson caught him, however, with four birdies at the start of the second.
Rory McIlroy had a long day on the course, too. He played 10 holes in the morning to finish up his first round at 1-under 70, then immediately went back out for the second.
Struggling with what he said was a cold or a sinus infection, he didn’t look sharp on the back nine, either. He bogeyed the 12th and then hit a double bogey on the par-4 13th before getting back to par with three birdies, with six holes left to play.
At least he made it on the course. Phil Mickelson, three-time champion Adam Scott and Bjorn, who shot a 5-under 66 in the first round, didn’t play at all on Friday.
Tournament director Jose Maria Zamora said organizers still hoped to complete 72 holes before the end of the weekend. If there are more rain delays, however, he said the tournament could be reduced to 54 holes or the fourth round could be held on Monday.
The tournament is frequently hampered by rain. Last year, only three rounds were played and the playoff to decide the winner still had to be held on the Monday.
Chapchai, nicknamed “King Kong” because of his long drives off the tee, didn’t seem to be too fazed by the constant delays. He learned to be more patient, he said, when his parents sent him to a monastery to help him control his temper early in his career. He even briefly became a monk.
“I used to be very hot-tempered and I got frustrated easily, especially at such a young age,” he said. “My temper is better now but I still try to go back to the monastery once in a while.”
The Thai golfer has captured only one European Tour title, in China in 2007. He’s played sparingly on the tour this season, appearing in just three events.
He has the potential to put up low scores, though. At the SAIL Open in India in 2009, he reached 32 under to capture the title, which was believed to be the lowest 72-hole score to par on any tour in the world.
McIlroy can wrap up the European Tour money title with a strong showing here. He’s already claimed the U.S. PGA Tour money list and is trying to emulate Luke Donald’s 2011 feat of winning both money titles in the same year.
After struggling early in his second round, McIlroy started to turn things around by holing a 3-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th as a fine drizzle turned into a steady rain, and then perfectly placing his approach shot on the next hole, the par-4 first, setting himself up for another easy birdie putt.
Play was halted moments later but McIlroy didn’t lose his momentum. After returning to the course with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki sitting on his lap in the cart, he hit his first shot to within two feet of the hole on No. 3 and birdied again.
Fifteen minutes later, however, the players were off the course again as the skies darkened with another storm approaching.
“All these stoppages are very frustrating, but then there is not much you can do about it as this is the weather they get here in Singapore at this time of year,” McIlroy said.
Chris Jordan, senior vice president of tournament promoter World Sport Group, has said that with the tournament to get a new sponsor next year after Barclays’ decision not to renew its deal, a move to a less rainy time of year was possible.
“Frankly, as far as I’m concerned all bets are off,” Jordan said. “Nothing’s a given but we will look at dates because seriously, we can’t afford to have too much bad luck on one date anymore.”