Sandhu one behind co-leaders Suradit and Siddikur at Panasonic Open India
New Delhi, October 26: Ajeetesh Sandhu shot a second successive 5-under but was still one shot off the lead at the US$ 400,000 Panasonic Open India. Thai youngster Suradit Yongcharoenchai (66-67) and the Bangladesh seasoned star Siddikur Rahman (67-66) share the lead at 11-under. Sandhu, one of the seven players Tied-2nd a year ago, is now 10-under and sole third.
The scoreboard continued to have a liberal sprinkling of the Indian tricolour as half of the Top-14 players were home stars and just over a half, 38 out of 74 making the cut were home golfers. The cut fell at 2-over 146.
Sandhu was third and Rashid Khan (68-68) fifth. Veteran Jeev Milkha Singh, who has made just two cuts in 15 starts in 2018 and has just one Top-5 finish since his win in 2012 Scottish Open, was T-6th with M Dharma (70-67) and four others.
One shot behind them in T-12 place were 53-year-old Mukesh Kumar (71-67), the 2016 Panasonic Open India champion; 23-year-old Aman Raj (70-68) and 17-year-old debutant pro Kshitij Naveed Kaul, indicating India’s growing depth in golf.
Suradit, searching for his maiden Asian Tour win to coincide with his 20th birthday on Sunday, carded a bogey-free 67, while Siddikur, the master craftsman at the DGC, had eight birdies and two bogeys for the day’s best card of 66.
Interestingly, two Indian youngsters, both making their debut this week, Kaul and Yuvraj Sandhu also shot 66s, but with contrasting fortunes. Kaul (72-66) made the cut on his debut and was T-12 but Sandhu, despite fighting back from his first round 81 with a 66 for a 15-shot swing, missed the cut by one. Also missing cut was debutant Aadil Bedi (77-74).
Suradit said, “I did nothing really different from yesterday. The fairways are still playing firm. The pin positions are pretty much like yesterday as well. This Sunday’s my 20th birthday so I definitely hope I can win my first Asian Tour title here. I just want to play my game and focus on the tee shots, which are important if you want to play well on this course.”
Siddikur hit the ball so beautifully that he had three eagle putts. He had one from seven feet on the 14th, from 20 feet on the first and 12 feet on the eighth. “I didn’t make any of the three,” said the smiling Siddikur, “but I am still happy with the eight birdies (besides two bogeys). My strategy has been the same to keep it straight and give myself enough chances.”
Armed with 12 Top-10s in 15 starts between 2010 and 2015, after which he has not played here, Siddikur is looking for his second title at the DGC after the Hero Indian Open in 2013. Siddikur has never finished outside Top-5 in his four previous starts at the Panasonic Open India from 2011 to 2014.
Sandhu, who won his only Asian Tour title at Yeangder TPC last year, said, “At DGC one has to create opportunities by hitting maximum fairways. The par-5s also provide scoring opportunities if you play them well. The key moment today was the birdie on the 11th. After starting with a bogey on the 10th, I came back well with the birdie on the next hole and that actually helped me settle down and find my rhythm.”
Suradit, who opened his campaign with a solid 66, returned with a flawless round 67 highlighted by five birdies.
Suradit is chasing his maiden victory on the region’s premier Tour. Prior to this week, he has claimed two top-five finishes, including a joint runner-up result in India at Take Solutions Masters in August.
Jeev rolled the clock back with 69-68 and is Tied-4th. He said, “It’s been a long time since I was interviewed, so it feels great. I am not sure when I last played so well and confidently. I was patient and I managed to hole a few putts coming in. I started from the back nine, made on birdie on the 17th where I holed a 10-footer. Made the turn at one-under and birdied the fourth hole from about 20 feet. On the seventh hole, I hit a good seven-iron shot to about 15 feet and holed that as well. Went on the birdie the eighth after chipping to about six feet and made that putt. Bogey-free 68, I am very pleased with myself.”
Jeev has made just two cuts in 15 starts this year with T-18 in Taiwan as his best and he has had just one Top-5 since his win in 2012 Scottish Open, and that was T-2 behind Gaganjeet Bhullar at Indonesia Open in 2016.
Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond, who has played numerous rounds with Sandhu this season, had a matching 67, but is sole fourth.