Gurugram, 29-03-2024

Japan’s Keita Nakajima leads, Veer Ahlawat is best-placed Indian on day two of Hero Indian Open

Picture: Getty Images

Veer Ahlawat led the list of home players with a second round 6 under par 66 to hold sixth place at the $2.25 million Hero Indian Open on 9 under 135 at the DLF Golf and Country Club, five shots behind event leader Keita Nakajima of Japan.

When the field was called off in the evening due to lightning in the area, 46 players were still to complete their second rounds Aman Raj was in provisional shared eighth place on 7 under having completed 13 holes of his second round.

DLF golfer Manu Gandas, who fired a sizzling 7 under 65 on Friday and Chandigarh’s Karandeep Kochhar were tied for provisional 16th place on 6 under 136 having competed their rounds for the day. Gandas, who had an opening 73, climbed 64 places on Friday while Kochhar (68-79) dropped two spots from his overnight tied 14thspot.

Gaganjeet Bhullar (70-69) was tied 22nd on 5 under 143 while Rashid Khan and Shubhankar Sharma, who could not complete his second round, were in shared 31st place.

Starting on the back nine, Ahlawat’s round included an eagle on the fourth hole where he hit the green from 260 yards with his 3-hybrid and converted a 10-foot putt. “I started a little slow, but then I holed a few good putts after that and I got the momentum after holing the putt on the 17th. So, that really helped,” the DLF golfer said later.

“The wind is really less this year and then the greens are really soft. So, even if you end up missing it on the wrong side, you still have a chance to make a par if you hit a good chip. 

“Today, my game was pretty strong. I kept it in play. I holed a few good putts. And then my striking was really good. So, I had a lot of chances to hole those 10, 12 footers, which I did. This is my home course and it helps for sure.

“For example, the tee shot which might look tougher for other players, I'm so used to that. I don't find it that tough as other guys who are playing here for the first time find it. I feel mentally I'm much stronger, like I'm not afraid to go deep on this course. So, I know if I start hitting the ball close to the flag and start holing few putts, I can go low. I'm not scared to do that.

Added Kochhar who was unfortunate to drop a bogey on his closing 18th hole, “I think I've been hitting the ball well generally for a while now so I think what's changed in these last two days is obviously the putting. Obviously, the ball striking has been there but in bits and pieces. I think I need to work a little bit on the range with my coach.

“Overall, I think scoring on this golf course is the most important thing, just keeping it in play and knowing when to take your medicine. try and make a bogey and get out of here which I should have done a ninth hole cost me a couple of shots there but overall, I think whenever I had the opportunity to make birdie I did so.”

Manu Gandas made five birdies on his last six holes including birdies on the last four during his flawless round of 65.

Manu said, “All aspects of my game were much better today as compared to round one, especially my iron-play. I hit more fairways and greens today and landed my approach shots within five feet of the pin on several occasions. I managed to get out of trouble on a couple of occasions too. The bunker shot on the eighth was special as it landed inches from the flag and led to a birdie. The biggest advantage of playing on my home course is the fact that I have total clarity on my gameplan.”

Norway's Espen Kofstad fired a sensational second round of 10-under 62 to set a new course record. Espen thus climbed 81 spots to be placed tied 59th at a total of one-under 143.

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