Veer Ahlawat emerges sole leader after second round, seven Indians in top 10
New Delhi, March 25, 2022
Veer Ahlawat fired a flawless 67 to take a two-shot lead at the half-way stage at a total of nine-under 135 in the $500,000 DGC Open at the Delhi Golf Club here on Friday.
Ajeetesh Sandhu’s (68) presence in second place at seven-under 137 further raised Indian hopes of a long-awaited victory on the international stage.
Gaganjeet Bhullar (66) also kept the tricolour fluttering as he was in tied fourth at five-under 139.
The three Thai golfers in the top 6 are Nitithorn Thippong (third at six-under 138), Chanat Sakulpolphaisan and Kasidit Lepkurte (both tied fourth at five-under 139).
The four Indians bunched in tied seventh at four-under 140 were Manu Gandas, Karandeep Kochhar, M Dharma and Kapil Kumar.
Shiv Kapur survived a difficult second day to sit on level par 144 (71-73) in a tie for 22nd place while overnight joint leader Shankar Das was down in shared 12th place on 3-under 141 (67-74) after a difficult second day.
Australian Travis Smyth struggled in the tougher afternoon conditions as he slipped into a tie for seventh place on 4-under 140 (67-73).
The cut was applied at five-over 149. Sixty-seven professionals made the cut including 38 Indians.
Making the cut were veteran Jeev Milkha Singh, former Indian Open winners S. S. P. Chawrasia and Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh and South Africa’s Ian Snyman, the highest-ranked Asian Tour player in the 138-strong field.
Ahlawat (68-67), who was overnight tied third and one off the lead, had a whirlwind first half on Friday as he picked up five birdies on his back-nine including four on the trot from the 12th to the 15th.
A winner on the PGTI in 2019, Ahlawat began his birdie run with a 15-feet conversion on the 12th. He then consistently landed it within four feet to sink four more birdies before making the turn. Known for hitting it long and straight, he had a relatively quieter front-nine as he made pars all the way from the first to the ninth. He made some good par saves on the seventh and ninth, draining a 15-footer on the latter.
Ahlawat, who claimed fifth place on the PGTI Order of Merit in the last two seasons, said, “On the back nine, I started pretty good and I was sticking it really close on the back nine. I made five birdies.
“Then I went on the front nine where I missed the chip putt on the 1st for a birdie and after that, I did hit it pretty close. I didn’t make most of them. But I did save a few par putts like on the 7th where I holed a 6 footer and then on the last hole I made a 15 footer for par.
“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 it long off the tee, just keep it in play.
“The wind was much less today morning than yesterday afternoon. In the back nine, it did start blowing a little bit, but it wasn't that much. I think my iron shots were on point today. I hit them pretty close and I did hold putts so my putting is also rolling pretty good.”
Sandhu (69-68), lying overnight tied fifth, produced another bogey-free round like leader Ahlawat, to move up three spots on the leaderboard. The Asian Tour winner made birdie on the 14th and followed it up with three more birdies on the front-nine as he did well with his 5-wood and the wedges. He made two exceptional par saves on the 18th and ninth.
“I’m happy but I think there were a lot of missed opportunities. It was tough with the wind today. I think you really had to be patient. The highlight of the day has to be the par save on the 18th. I actually hit a driver off the tee and I hit it right into the bush. I chipped out, laid up and then hit a wedge shot very close to make a good up and down.”
Nine-time Asian Tour winner Gaganjeet Bhullar mixed eight birdies and two bogeys in his round of 66. His round featured an incredible run of five straight birdies from the 13th to the 17th. He made a 40-feet conversion on the 15th.
“I actually started really well. On 11, I got to the green in three and made a bogey. Other than that I bounced back with five back to back birdies.
“I was just in a good frame of mind from yesterday's finish. And I thought that, I've been playing well. Yesterday was a day when I played well, but I didn't score that well. So today I think the number came.
“I think this is my best round at the DGC as a pro. I've shot 6-under as a junior, as an amateur, but I've never shot 6-under as a pro. So, I think overall I played really well.
For third-placed Nitithorn Thippong on 6-under 138 (68-70), it was a rough day out on the course. “It was a little bit tough today because I didn't hit tee shots very well. But overall it was all right because my putting was really good.
“The long putt on 12 was the highlight for me. The pin was on the right and I made a 30-foot putt so that was really cool. Tomorrow, I want to just keep the focus on my game, that's all I can do," he said.