Shubhankar leads at TAKE Solutions India Masters after Rd 2; Chikka and Himmat tied 2nd

Shubhankar SharmaBengaluru: Indians Shubhankar Sharma, defending champion Chikkarangappa and Himmat Singh Rai occupied the top-3 places at the halfway stage of the US$120,000 TAKE Solutions India Masters 2015, an event joint sanctioned by the Asian Development Tour (ADT) and Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI).

While Shubhankar Sharma of the DLF Golf & Country Club, Gurgaon, shot a blistering eight-under-64 in round two to move to the top of the leaderboard at 15-under-129, Chikkarangappa, playing at his home course Eagleton, posted a 66 and Himmat Singh Rai, another golfer from the DLF Golf & Country Club, Gurgaon, carded a 67, to be tied second at 13-under-131.

Round one leader Greg Moss of the United States, slipped to fourth at 12-under-132 after a sedate 70 on day two.

The cut went at four-under-140. It was one of the lowest ever cuts on the PGTI. Fifty-one professionals made the cut of which 33 were Indians.

Shubhankar Sharma (65-64) moved up two places from his overnight tied third as he improved on his first round 65 by one shot with nine birdies against a lone bogey. Nineteen-year-old Shubhankar started off with an eight feet birdie on the first which was neutralized by his three-putt bogey on the third. Sharma, who became the youngest winner on the PGTI in Kochi last year at age 17, then set up four birdies from a range of five feet on the front-nine.

Shubhankar’s shot of the day was the approach on the 11th that helped him recover from the trees and land it within 10 feet of the pin for another birdie. He then pulled away from the rest with three more birdies on the last five holes. The Gurgaon-based golfer drove it to the edge of the green on the 17th and sank a 20-footer on the 18th for a birdie-birdie finish to the day.

“Putting holds the key this week and my putting has been good in the first two rounds. My iron-play has also been spot-on and I’ve struck it well. I missed a couple of eagle opportunities today but was delighted with the recovery from the trees on the 11th where I salvaged a birdie,” said Sharma, whose best on the Asian Tour was a fourth place last year.

He added, “I’ve had a pretty decent season on the PGTI this year with three top-3s out of eight starts so far. The 40-day tour of the United States that I undertook this summer along with a few other Indian professionals has also helped me sharpen my game. I’ll just look to keep the intensity going over the next two days.”

Chikkarangappa (65-66) put together a bogey-free round of 66 to rise from overnight tied third to tied second and stay in contention. Three of Chikka’s six birdies came as a result of some magnificent recoveries from the rough and bunker. He also landed his wedge shots within five feet for his other three birdies.

Chikka said, “I did well to get out of trouble a few times today. My best shot was the sand wedge approach from the rough from over 100 yards on the sixth that stopped within 10 feet of the hole and finally resulted in a birdie. I had 17 regulations today. I’m still very much in the hunt.

“I feel, over the next two days, I need to focus on reading the lines better and tackling the pins that are tucked in corners,” added the reigning champion.

Himmat Singh Rai (64-67) made six birdies against a bogey in his score of 67 to share second position with Chikka. Rai, who started the day in sole second place, converted three birdies from a range of 10 to 15 feet and played a brilliant bunker shot for a tap-in birdie on 17.

Himmat said, “The conditions are good for scoring but one still has to play well. I know I’ll have to keep returning low scores in the last two rounds as the competition is very tough with lot of players likely to go low.”

Greg Moss had a relatively quieter round of 70 as compared to his sensational 62 on day one. He had an early bogey on the 12th but then rallied with an eagle and two birdies on the next nine holes. Moss’ bogey on the seventh meant he ended the day in fourth, three off the lead.

“I had a decent round but the bogey on the seventh played spoiler. It was one of those holes where everything went wrong from tee to green. I hit a lot of fairways and made many long putts in round one but that was not the case today,” said Moss.

Delhi’s Rashid Khan produced six birdies, two bogeys and a double-bogey in his second round of 70 that placed him tied fifth at nine-under-135.

Bengaluru’s Trishul Chinnappa, Naman Dawar and Shivendra Singh Sisodia of Delhi and Sri Lankan N Thangaraja shared fifth place with Rashid.