| Arjun Atwal steers a putt home during the second round of the Heineken Classic at the Royal Melbourne course on Friday. (AFP)
Melbourne: Two Indians are in fine nick after the second round of the Heineken Classic at the Royal Melbourne course Friday.
Calcutta’s Arjun Atwal followed up his fine first round three under score to notch another sub-par round — two under 70 — and is now at joint 11th spot, just seven strokes adrift of former English amateur champion Paul Casey, who is heading the leaderboard at 132 (65+67).
Also coming up, though a trifle slowly, is Jyoti Randhawa. He followed up his first round par score with a one-over second round, to remain 13 strokes adrift of the leader and six strokes adrift of Atwal.
Casey is backing himself to lead from the start to finish after extending his advantage to two strokes in the European Tour event Friday. The 25-year-old lies 12-under, ahead of fellow Briton David Lynn (69, 65) after the second round of the event co-sanctioned by the European and Australasian Tours.
Australian Open champion Stephen Allan, with a pair of 68s, was outright third on eight-under par 136. Defending champion and South African world number two Ernie Els (70, 72) and Australia’s former world number one Greg Norman (73, 69) are both ten shots behind the leader on two-under-par 142.
Britain’s six-time major winner Nick Faldo (69, 71) was tied for 16th on four-under-par 140.
Casey, who broke US college scoring records held by Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson during his time at Arizona State University, had led Spain’s Santiago Luna by one stroke overnight before Luna faded with a 74 Friday.
“Today was a lot tougher than yesterday. I was very happy with the way I played,” Casey told reporters after carding two bogeys, five birdies and an eagle on the par-five ninth.
Els, who has already won twice on the US Tour this year, said he had struggled with the windy conditions at Royal Melbourne Golf Club after playing in Hawaii and Singapore.
“I’m not too happy. I lost my rhythm again this week. I’ve done quite a bit of travelling,” Els told reporters. “It’s not an excuse. I made some silly mistakes.”
Casey was the European Tour Rookie of the Year in 2001, winning the Scottish PGA Championship and finishing 22nd on the Order of Merit. The following year he dropped to 46th.
The Englishman described 2002 as a disappointment and part of a learning curve. Casey said he was aiming to play Ryder Cup golf in the future, but for now he was confident of keeping a cool head as a frontrunner in the closing two rounds of the Heineken Classic.
“If somebody else wants to shoot an outrageous number then that’s great,” Casey said. “But if I keep playing the golf I’m playing and keep the head bolted on my shoulders, I should be fine.”