He could not replicate his sizzling form of Thursday, when he shot nine birdies for a superb 63 to take first-day honours at The Championship.
But, as the heat was turned up - literally - yesterday, Panuphol "Coconut" Pittayarat kept his cool, shooting a four-under 68 at Laguna National's Masters Course to lead by one stroke with a 13-under 131 total.
Starting from the 10th hole and finishing on the ninth, the 21-year-old Thai fired five birdies on the first, seventh, ninth, 10th and 15th holes to offset a bogey on the second to take pole position at the US$1.5 million (S$1.88m) championship, co-sanctioned by the European Tour and Asian Tour.
His face flushed from the heat, Panuphol said yesterday: "The weather is really hot today.
"The two birdies in my last three holes were nice to end off my round.
"I really wanted to make that long putt (on the last hole) to take the outright lead and I am happy I did it."
Panuphol has not featured in the weekend rounds since the start of the season and he is delighted with his form this week.
He said: "It's nice to put myself in a good position heading into the last two rounds.
"I rather stay up there than to be chasing the lead. I just want to grab my chance and not let it go."
Hot on his heels are Chilean Felipe Aguilar, Australian Scott Hend and Korean-American David Lipsky, who are all tied for second on 12 under.
Hend was the best performer yesterday, posting a seven-under 65 with eight birdies and a lone bogey on 14th.
He said: "It's hard to keep your composure in such hot playing conditions.
"I am managing well so far, there are two more rounds to go and we will see what happens.
"After yesterday, I am guessing the winning score will be around 24 under to 28 under. Obviously, it depends on the weather as well.
"I have to keep pushing on, there's no stopping me. You can't stop, there are too many good players out there."
Lipsky struggled a little with the wind yesterday afternoon, but carded a 68 to keep pace with Panuphol.
The Korean-American said: "I didn't hit the ball as well as I did yesterday, but I think I scrambled well.
"I am happy to be in a good position now and I just want to keep doing what I am doing, and try to hole more putts tomorrow."
Seventy-two players made the cut, which was set at four under.
This article was published on May 3 in The New Paper.
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