Commercialbank Qatar Masters

Korea’s An and India’s Kapur lead Asian charge at Commercial Bank Qatar Masters

Ben An Byeong-hun raised the possibility of a first-ever Asian winner of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters when the strapping Korean carded a second-round 69 to move to eight-under-par, just one shot behind the three joint leaders.

India’s Shiv Kapur carded a bogey-free 68 to share 10th spot on six-under with the likes of Sergio Garcia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat was just a shot behind after the big-hitting Thai signed for a 71 at Doha Golf Club.

Indian legend Jeev Milkha Singh, who won the last of his four European Tour titles in 2012, shot a second 70 to move to four-under, while Thai veteran Thongchai Jaidee, a six-time winner on The European Tour, was two-under after a 73.

YE Yang, the first and so far only Asian man to win a Major, missed the cut by one on his tournament debut after a 71 left him even-par.

Kapur, 32, played with An for the first two days and admitted he was inspired by playing with the 23-year-old Korean, who’s playing his first full season on The European Tour after earning his card through last year’s Challenge Tour.

“I played pretty steady and was happy to be bogey free. The wind has died down from the start of the week and conditions were there for scoring, and I managed to take advantage of it,” said Kapur, who spent seven years on The European Tour before losing his card at the end of 2012, then regaining it the following year by finishing fourth on the Challenge Tour.

“Ben and I were feeding off each other. He’s playing really well. He had a good week last week and is in form. It was good to play with someone who’s playing that well, because, like I said, you feed off each other.”

With An making his tournament debut, Kapur believes Asian golfers are enjoying a particularly impressive showing in this year’s Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.

“I’ve known Jeev for a very long time and he seems to be coming back into form after a bit of a rough year with injuries. We all know Thongchai is usually going to be at the business end of the leaderboard, same for Kiradech. It’s a really strong Asian presence,” Kapur said.

“Back in the day, you didn’t really see many Asians contending on desert courses, predominantly because of the length of the courses. They’re very different to the courses we’ve grown up on, but with the more exposure we’ve had playing on The European Tour, you see Asians contending now.”

Although Kapur stopped short of predicting an Asian champion in this year’s Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, he didn’t rule it out, especially considering the repeated success of Thongchai and Singh on the circuit.

“I’d say there’s as good a chance for an Asian champion as there has been, but the field here is always very strong and you always have the top players here,” Kapur said.

“You have to have a bit of luck, but I won’t say it’s out of the question. You have to have a few guys firing on all cylinders to be at the business end of the leaderboard, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see an Asian winner.”

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