Placed two strokes apart, leader Veer Ahlawat and Ajeetesh Sandhu took turns to bring delight to the home fans with bogey-free rounds at the half-way stage of the USD 500,000 DGC Open golf tournament here.
Friday saw the two overnight leaders Shankar Das and Travis Smyth (Australia) lose their way a bit with rounds of 74 and 73. Also, a trio from Thailand prevented an Indian monopoly of the top-10 spots. The ‘cut’ applied at five-over 149 left 67 professionals, including 38 Indians, to fight it out over the weekend.
The day clearly belonged to Ahlawat, 26, one of the longest hitters in the country. The Gurugram golfer started from the 10th tee in the morning and caught the attention with stunning front-nine 31, studded with five birdies, including four in succession. Ten successive pars followed, missing a few birdie putts on the way to a 67. In fact, on the final hole Ahlawat saved a par from 15 feet after he chipped out of a greenside-bunker and the ball ran past the flag.
‘Just keep it in play’
Talking about his play, Ahlawat said, “My swing is feeling pretty good so I was pretty confident that if I keep hitting it in the fairway, I’m going to hit good second shots so that was my plan for today. Just keep it in play - you don't have to get along off the tee, just keep it in play.”
REPORT - DAY ONE
Thereafter, Sandhu lit up the afternoon session. Starting from the 10th tee, the 33-year-old from Chandigarh birdied the par-5 14th hole and made three birdies on his way in to sign off with a 68.
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“I’m happy. I think a lot of missed opportunities again but that’s O.K. It was tough with the wind yesterday. It was tricky today. I think you really have to be patient. I found it a little easier than yesterday. The greens are excellent. If you miss a putt, you can’t really complain about the surface, it’s your fault. The course is fantastic,” said Sandhu.
Bhullar, Kapil back in the hunt
Gaganjeet Bhullar and Kapil Kumar fired rounds of 66 - best of the tournament so far - to break into the top-10. Bhullar fired eight birdies including five consecutive ones from the 13th hole. Kapil started with an ‘eagle’ and then finished strongly with four back-nine birdies, including those on the final two holes.
- 135 - Veer Ahlawat (68, 67);
- 137 - Ajeetesh Sandhu (69, 68);
- 138 - Nitithorn Thippong (Tha);
- 139 - Chanat Sakulpolphaisan (Tha) (72, 67), Kasikit Lepkurte (Tha) (71, 68), Gaganjeet Bhullar (73, 66);
- 140 - Manu Gandas (71, 69), Karandeep Kochhar (69, 71), M. Dharma (71, 69), Kapil Kumar (74, 66) and Travis Smyth (Aus) (67, 73).