New Delhi, December 3: India’s Mukesh Kumar signed for a second round three-under-par 69 to grab the outright lead while Sung Lee of Korea drove home a BMW Z4 after scoring an ace at the weather-shortened Panasonic Open India on Saturday.
The 51-year-old Kumar sank five birdies against two bogeys for an eight-under-par 136 total, giving himself a two-shot lead heading into the third and final round of the US$400,000 Asian Tour event, which has earlier been reduced to 54-holes due to fog disruptions.
Lee, a one-time winner on Tour but not since 2007, struck the second hole-in-one in his career with an eight-iron from 171 yards on the par-three fifth hole at the venerable Delhi Golf Club.
Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond (69) and Mithun Perera (68) of Sri Lanka shared second place with Indian duo Khalin Joshi (71) and Shankar Das (67) in the US$400,000 event, which is penultimate tournament of the 2016 Asian Tour season.
Defending champion Chiragh Kumar of India put himself in contention for a successful title defence after posting a 68 to stay three shots off the pace in sixth place alongside countrymen Rashid Khan, Shubhankar Sharma, Jyoti Randhawa and Deepinder Singh Kullar.
Mukesh, who has won over 120 professional titles in his career, got off to a flying start where he birdied the first three holes before picking up another shot on the eighth hole to turn in 32. He dropped two shots on his way home but recovered with a fifth birdie of the day on 17.
“I was just focusing on my game and not thinking about the scores. I putted better than I did in the first round. The first three birdies set up the round for me and raised my confidence from there,” said Mukesh.
“I will probably be a little more aggressive tomorrow as the field is very strong and there are a lot of good players chasing me. I hope my past experiences of playing at the Delhi Golf Club will help.” – Mukesh Kumar
“I will probably be a little more aggressive tomorrow as the field is very strong and there are a lot of good players chasing me. I hope my past experiences of playing at the Delhi Golf Club will help. I want to prove to myself with a win tomorrow that I am good enough to compete on the international level, even at this age,” Mukesh added.
Perera, who returned to finish the last six holes of his second round in the morning, took advantage of his consistent driving accuracy to keep up his chase for a breakthrough win on the region’s premier Tour.
“My driving accuracy has always been my strong point, especially on this course, and I am glad I put it to my advantage again. I gave myself very good chances out there. I had like four chip-ins from yesterday which saved me some shots too,” said the 29-year-old Sri Lankan.
Placed 112th on the Order of Merit, Perera needs to win the Panasonic Open India to secure his full playing rights on the Asian Tour in 2017 before heading into the season finale next week.
“I have just one more round to go to try and keep my card with a win. It’s not going to be easy but I know it is not impossible. Anything can happen tomorrow. I just have to stick to my game plan and do what I need to do. The plan is to hole some putts and I should have a good chance,” added Perera.
Sitting just one rung below Perera on the money list, Joshi also needs a victory to secure his playing rights on the Asian Tour for 2017.
“I didn’t hit the ball good in the last 18 holes but I putted well. I was just trying to finish with a decent number. I am going to the range to get some practice and get my swing back to how I hit the ball in the first round,” said Joshi, who traded one eagle and four birdies against three bogeys and a double-bogey.
“The key is to hit fairways here. I will be looking to do that in the final round tomorrow. If I keep doing that, I should have a good chance,” added the 24-year-old Joshi, placed second on the domestic rankings.
“I jumped for joy when I saw the ball disappear into the hole. This is the second hole-in-one that I have had in my career. The last one was in 2003 which was more than 10 years ago.” – Sung Lee
It was a day to remember for Lee, who aced the fifth hole with an eight-iron from 171 yards. “I jumped for joy when I saw the ball disappear into the hole. This is the second hole-in-one that I have had in my career. The last one was in 2003 which was more than 10 years ago,” exclaimed Lee, who returned with a 68 to trail by four shots in tied-11th place.
A total of 73 players made the halfway cut set at four-over-par at the Panasonic Open India, which is celebrating its sixth consecutive edition on the Asian Tour this week. The third and final round of the tournament will take place at 9.30am local time on Sunday.
Scores after round 2 of the Panasonic Open India 2016 being played at the par 72, 6935 Yards Delhi GC course (am – denotes amateur):
136 – Mukesh KUMAR (IND) 67-69.
138 – Jazz JANEWATTANANOND (THA) 69-69, Khalin JOSHI (IND) 67-71, Mithun PERERA (SRI) 70-68, Shankar DAS (IND) 71-67.
139 – Rashid KHAN (IND) 67-72, Shubhankar SHARMA (IND) 71-68, Chiragh KUMAR (IND) 71-68, Jyoti RANDHAWA (IND) 67-72, Deepinder Singh KULLAR (IND) 73-66.
140 – Kapil KUMAR (IND) 68-72, Sanjeev KUMAR (IND) 71-69, Brett MUNSON (USA) 71-69, Om Prakash CHOUHAN (IND) 72-68, Sung LEE (KOR) 72-68.
141 – Shamim KHAN (IND) 67-74, Arjun ATWAL (IND) 69-72, Digvijay SINGH (IND) 70-71.
142 – Honey BAISOYA (IND) 73-69, Angad CHEEMA (IND) 71-71, CHAN Yih-shin (TPE) 72-70, Abhinav LOHAN (IND) 72-70.
143 – Ashok KUMAR (IND) 70-73, Michael TRAN (VIE) 71-72, N. THANGARAJA (SRI) 75-68, Chikkarangappa S. (IND) 71-72, M DHARMA (IND) 71-72, Gaurav Pratap SINGH (IND) 71-72.
144 – Pratap ATWAL (IND) 70-74, Mitchell SLORACH (SIN) 71-73, Lionel WEBER (FRA) 69-75, Masaru TAKAHASHI (JPN) 70-74, Mardan MAMAT (SIN) 72-72, Rahul BAJAJ (IND) 72-72.
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