| Richie Ramsay, in Bangalore, on Friday |
Calcutta: Gaganjeet Bhullar and Shiv Kapur kept the Indian flag flying high after two rounds of the first-ever Hero Indian Open, at the KGA course in Bangalore, on Friday.
Bhullar at tied sixth and Kapur at tied 10th spot were the best-placed Indians at the halfway stage as the visiting professionals took centre-stage.
Bhullar added a 69 to his first round 68 to move to five-under and Kapur played a wobbly 71 to be four-under after 36 holes, at the approximately $1.25 million Asian Tour event .
The halfway cut came at three-over as 21 Indian professionals and five amateurs made the cut. A total of 81 players have made the weekend rounds.
Richie Ramsay of Scotland fired a 66, as he birdied four of his last five holes, to race to a three-shot lead ahead of three players — Thai duo Panuphol Pittayarat and Chapchai Nirat and Jaakko Makitalo of Finland. The trio returned matching 68s.
Nirat had last won on the Asian Tour in India in 2009 where he had set a world 72-hole scoring record of 32-under-par 256.
Bhullar, who won his fourth Asian Tour title in Macau last week, led the local charge with a round of 69 for the tied sixth position and is five shots off the pace.
Ramsay, a two-time winner in Europe, made 11 consecutive pars after his early birdie on 11, but exploded back on his homeward nine with four birdies including a tricky 25 foot downhill birdie putt on the last.
“It is always nice to hole a birdie on the last. It makes your lunch taste a little nicer,” the smiling 29-year-old said. “The key was patience… I knew I was playing well and hit a lot of good iron shots. If you keep playing that way, sooner or later you will make something.”
“It was a really nice way to finish... I stayed patient and you have to find the fairways and get good angles at the pins. I felt that I could have gone really low if I sank some of my putts,” he added.
Panuphol, who is hunting for his first Asian Tour title, played “blindly” on the last three holes as sporadic rain in the afternoon fogged up his glasses. The highlight of his day was three straight birdies from 14 including a chip in from 15 yards on hole 15.
“The rain was pouring and I didn’t bring my umbrella, which wasn’t smart at all... I was drenched going into the last few holes and the rain started to fog up my glasses! I was playing blindly in the last three holes. I kept my rhythm going, so I’m happy with that,” said the 19-year-old.
Makitalo, a graduate from Qualifying School, was two-over for the day after 10 holes before a 30-yard chip in eagle-three on 11 turned his fortunes around as he added three further birdies on his way home.
In-form Bhullar kept his bid for a first Hero Indian Open title alive as he peppered the greens with acute iron play.
“I felt good and was enjoying myself because I found a lot of fairways and hit a lot of greens... I’m still looking forward to hitting some low numbers in the next two days,” said Bhullar, currently in fifth position on the Order of Merit.
Kapur, on the other hand, said: “I had a great start with three birdies on the trot in my first four holes, but then, on the second nine, I had a bit of a wobble that cost me three shots… That left me a lot of work to do over the next two days.”