Panasonic Open: Chiragh Kumar jumps to three-shot lead

Chiragh carded a six-under 66, including nine birdies — six in a row — for a two-round aggregate of 133. The tally could have been better had the local talent not missed a short par-putt on the final hole. But the day’s effort was still good to make him the clubhouse leader after a long time.

Chiragh Kumar... surging ahead.   -  Sandeep Saxena

Between a poor start and a disappointing finish, Chiragh Kumar produced some scintillating hitting and putting to snatch a three-stroke lead at the halfway stage of the $400,000 Panasonic Open golf championship here on Friday.

Chiragh carded a six-under 66, including nine birdies — six in a row — for a two-round aggregate of 133. The tally could have been better had the local talent not missed a short par-putt on the final hole. But the day’s effort was still good to make him the clubhouse leader after a long time.

Overnight leader, Sri Lanka’s Mithun Perera, returned a 70 and slipped to the second spot with 136, two strokes ahead of the three-player pack that includes Bangladesh’s Siddikur Rahman.

The ‘cut’ applied at three-over 147 left 71 players, including 30 Indians, in the fray over the weekend.

On this day, Chiragh needed 25 putts, two less than yesterday, and seven out of his nine birdie-putts were in the range of 10 to 15 feet!

Starting from the 10th hole, Chiragh was two-over for the day after the third hole. He could have picked up his first birdie on the par-5 14th hole but he missed it from five feet.

Undeterred, Chiragh strung together six consecutive birdies, including two after the turn, to take the lead. After finding pars on the third and fourth holes, Chiragh again fired a hat-trick of birdies to move to 12-under after 34 holes for the competition.

On the penultimate hole — eighth of the course — Chiragh missed a birdie-putt from four feet and then had frustration writ all over his face when, on the final hole, his par-putt from four feet lipped out.

Looking back at the round, Chiragh said, “I told myself not to let the poor start get to me. I missed a short birdie putt on the 14th hole and I kept telling myself to move on. Everything fell into place after that, so I’m glad I missed that putt. I wish I had holed a few more birdie-putts and finished higher than I did. I made my fair share of birdies so I can’t complain.”

The scores (Indians unless stated):

Chiragh Kumar (67, 66) 133; Mithun Perera (Sri) (66, 70) 136; Siddikur Rahman (Ban) (68, 70), Pawin Ingkhapradit (Tha) (70, 68), Zamal Hossain (Ban) (71, 67) 138; Vikrant Chopra (71, 68), K. Prabagaran (Sri) (69, 70) 139; Shankar Das (69, 71), Thaworn Wiratchant (Tha) (68, 72), Sattaya Supupramai (Tha) (67, 73), S. Chikkarangappa (69. 71) 140; Sanjay Kumar (70, 71), Sujjan Singh (71. 70), Amardip Malik (71. 70), Jyoti Randhawa (69, 72), Mukesh Kumar (70, 71) and N. Thangaraja (Sri) (68, 73) 141.

Other Indians who made the ‘cut’: Rashid Khan (71, 71), Khalin Joshi (69, 73) 142; Manav Jaini (72, 71), Om Prakash Chouhan (71, 72), Shubhankar Sharma (70, 73) 143; Rahul Bajaj (72, 72), Deepinder Singh Kullar (70, 74), Abhishek Jha (71, 73), Rahil Gangjee (70, 74), Gaganjeet Bhullar (71, 73) 144; Shamim Khan (72, 73), Ajeetesh Sandhu (72. 73), Abhinav Lohan (72, 73), Abhijit Chadha (68, 77) 145; Anil Mane (74, 72), Udayan Mane (77, 69), Feroz Ali (76, 70), 146; Ashok Kumar (74, 73), Digvijay Singh (71, 76), R. Murthy (75, 72) and Randhir Singh Ghotra (73, 74) 147.