Harpal Singh Bedi
Nuh, Haryana: Chandigarh based Abhijit Singh Chadha led the Indian charge with 7 under 65 but Indonesia’s Rory Hie kept the sole lead at 12-under par 132 at the halfway mark of the $300,000 Classic Golf & Country Club International Championship here on Friday
Chadha with a second round of 65 climbed up six spots to second place at 11-under-133 to be behind Rory Hie by one shot.
The 28-year old Indian, rode on a run of six birdies in a eight-hole run from first to eighth on his second nine, which was the front stretch of the layout.
The day’s best round came from American Nicholas Latimer who shot 64 and behind him were Chadha, Thailand’s Kosuke Hamamoto and American Trevor Simsby, who shot 65 each.
Hie, who returned a 4-under 68 to go with his 64 on the first day, said , “My tee shots were really good today and that was the strongest part of my game. I actually didn’t get off to a good start as my iron shots were kind of dodgy but I was able to bounce back each time I made a bogey and the highlight of my round was really being able to recover each time I made a mistake. It was good to end the round with back-to-back birdies.”
The duo of Rashid Khan (66), yet to drop a stroke in the tournament, and Aman Raj (67), who fired a second successive five-under, were in tied third with total scores of 10-under-134. Two-time Asian Tour winner Rashid made a gain of five spots on Friday while Aman moved up two spots.
Aadil Bedi, the fourth Indian in the top-10, struck a 68 on day two but slipped one position to tied sixth at nine-under-135.
Chadha (68-65), who has won a title each at the junior, amateur and professional levels at the Classic Golf & Country Club (CG&CC), took advantage of his familiarity with the course to power ahead with an error-free round that featured seven birdies.
A winner of two professionals titles on the TATA Steel PGTI, he made a slow start as his first birdie of the day came on the 18th where fortune favoured him after his drive hit the tree and bounced back on the fairway.
Chadha , who last won at the CG&CC during the 2015 BILT Open, was a different player on the front-nine where he collected six more birdies. The Chandigarh-based golfer was brilliant from 70 to 80 yards as he set up one-foot birdie conversions with his lob wedge shots on the third, fourth and eighth holes.
A silver medalist from the 2010 Asian Games, said, “I putted really well today and put myself in good positions. I made a lot of putts on the front nine.
“I have won thrice on this course so I’m very comfortable on every tee shot and on the greens. It feels almost like a home course for me. I’m at ease with myself in pressure situations at this venue.
“On the 18th, I hit a wayward drive which hit a tree and came back on the fairway. It was a lucky break and I capitalized on that. The birdie on the 18th kind of gave me a boost and after that I pulled off a lot of good shots.
“I’m really happy to be in this position. I’m confident and playing well and will now look to go as low as possible over the next two rounds.
“I missed a few events on the Asian Tour in the first half of the year due to a shoulder injury. So now I’m all the more determined to make this good start count.”
Aman Raj (67-67), who won his only professional title exactly one year back on the TATA Steel PGTI, mixed seven birdies with two bogeys on day two to strengthen his position on the leaderboard. Aman made a couple of fabulous recoveries from the rough to salvage birdies on the sixth and 14th. He drained a 35-footer on the sixth.
The Patna-based lad looked to end the day on a high after birdies on the 16th and 17th but a couple of mistakes from the rough and the bunker on the 18th proved to be a dampener for him as he bogeyed the last hole.
Aman, the former India No. 1 amateur, said, “I feel I judged the conditions well today. Having teed off in the morning, I knew there would be dew and the course would play longer than it did when I teed off in the afternoon yesterday. I therefore played one club longer on most shots.
“I’m happy with the overall score but ending with a bogey always pinches especially on a par-5 when I had a hybrid in my hand on the fairway. But this is golf and you have to take it and move forward.”
Rashid Khan (68-66) produced a second straight bogey-free effort despite scrambling for a major part of the day on Friday. Rashid played some incredible shots to recover twice from the rough and once from the bunker slope to pick up birdies from a range of five feet on the first, third and seventh.
Delhi-based Khan, who was four-under through seven holes, then gave himself a lot of chances on the back-nine but could add only two more birdies to his card on the 12th and 18th.
“I think I’m playing really good golf as over the past two days I’ve made 10 birdies and I’m on 10-under.” he said adding “I have been in this situation before but I’m not thinking too much right now. I’m not thinking of the last two rounds. I’ll only start thinking ahead when I begin the last nine holes of the final round.”
The trio of Chikkarangappa, Ankur Chadha and Abhinav Lohan were placed tied 11th with identical scores of seven-under-137.
Among the prominent Indian names, Khalin Joshi was tied 24th at five-under-139, Viraj Madappa was tied 35th at four-under-140 and Jyoti Randhawa was tied 63rd at one-under-143.
The cut was applied at one-under-143. Seventy-five players including 37 Indians made it to the money round. One of the two Indian amateurs to make the cut was Harshjeet Singh Sethie.
Ajeetesh Sandhu (74) missed the cut by one shot.