Oct 18, 3:41 am

 England’s Steve Lewton took advantage of his booming drives to sign for a three-under-par 68 and grab a share of the halfway lead with in-form Mathiam Keyser of South Africa at the US$100,000 Combiphar Players Championship on Thursday.

Overnight co-leader Lewton fired five birdies against a double-bogey to move atop the leaderboard with a five-under-par 137 total alongside Keyser, who returned with a flawless round highlighted by one eagle and two birdies, at the New Kuta Golf, Bali.

American John Catlin carded a 67 to trail the leading duo by two shots in third place on his own while Order of Merit leader Masaru Takahashi of Japan returned with a second straight 70 to sit in fourth place with three other players on 140 at the Asian Development Tour (ADT) event.

American John Michael O’Toole, who claimed his second ADT title in Malaysia last month, produced the shot of the day when he sank an ace on the par-three 15th hole after he hit an eight-iron 133 yards into the wind. He signed for an eventual 72 to tie in 29th position on 145.

Benita Kasiadi carded a 68 to emerge as the highest-placed Indonesian in tied-eighth position on 141 at the Combiphar Players Championship, what is the 14th leg of the ADT schedule and also the Tour’s second stop in Indonesia this season.

Lewton, who has capped three top-10 finishes on the ADT so far this season, was thrilled to cap a commendable round which saw him missing only two greens in regulation. His two-day scorecard would have been perfect if not for the double-bogey on the par-five 18 in the second round. He had opened his campaign with a bogey-free 69.

“It was much easier today compared to yesterday. It wasn’t as windy. I just stayed patient out there but unfortunately, I stumbled with a double-bogey on the difficult 18 after hitting the ball out of bounds. But I told myself I still have chances to recover on my back nine which is the front nine and I managed to birdie the first, second and fourth holes after the turn.

“I drove the ball really well. I missed only two greens in regulation today. I controlled the ball well. I am happy with the way I played. I will continue to stick to my game plan for the next two rounds,” said the 34-year-old Lewton, a one-time Asian Tour winner in 2015.

Keyser got off to a solid start, nailing an eagle-3 on the second hole after hitting an aggressive drive, followed by an eight-iron to eight feet. He added birdies on seventh and 14 to sign for a flawless 67.

“My mental game was good today. It was grind out there with the wind. It’s always nice to play a bogey-free round in winds like this. I have been playing well for a few weeks now so I am just enjoying myself,” said the 30-year-old Keyser.

Keyser completed a hat-trick when he secured his second ADT title in Malaysia a fortnight ago. He had claimed back-to-back wins on the MENA Golf Tour prior to that victory. 

“I am just going to have fun playing with Steve (Lewton) tomorrow. He is a good friend of mine so I am sure we will have fun out there,” added the South African.

The winner of the Combiphar Players Championship will take home a prize purse of US$17,500 and receive six Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points while the top-six players and ties earn points based on a sliding scale.

The leading five players on the final Order of Merit at the end of the season will earn their Asian Tour cards for the 2018 season.

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