PGTI Players Championship: Mukesh maintains one-shot advantage at halfway stage

Mukesh Kumar Round 1 leader PGTI Players ChampionshipBengaluru: Mhow golfer Mukesh Kumar fired a solid four-under-68 in blustery conditions to maintain his one-shot lead in round two of the PGTI Players Championship presented by Eagleton – The Golf Resort. Mukesh, who had opened the week with a 64, totalled 12-under-132 for the first two days.

Chandigarh’s Sujjan Singh submitted a top-class 65 to end the day in second place, one off the lead.

Round one leader Mukesh Kumar (64-68) came up with a dogged performance on day two to stay ahead of the rest of the field. Mukesh canned two short birdie putts early in the round on the 10th and 13th while he also dropped his first shot of the tournament as a result of a three-putt on the 12th.

The 50-year-old gained some momentum with a 15-feet birdie conversion on the 16th before driving the par-4 17th green to pick up another shot. As the wind picked up, Mukesh had a relatively quieter front-nine with eight pars and a birdie on the par-5 seventh where he hit the green in two.

Mukesh said, “I’ve made 17 greens in regulation in both rounds so far but today my putting wasn’t as good as round one. While I missed two short putts just like round one, today I also faltered on the longer range putts. I set up two eagle opportunities for myself from within 15 feet but missed both.

“But I’m glad that I fought hard in the second half of the round and braved the gusty conditions to keep the errors out. The real contest begins now as both Sujjan and Shamim are playing extremely well and breathing down my neck.”

Sujjan Singh’s (68-65) seven-under propelled him from tied seventh to second place in round two. Sujjan, 17th in the Rolex Ranking last year thanks to an outstanding seven top-10s, got his round going with four consecutive birdies from the fourth to the seventh.

Armed with a new driver, the 35-year-old, a winner of three titles, was in good ball-striking form as he added four more birdies on the back-nine against just one bogey.

Sujjan said, “I’m playing with a new driver this week and that’s worked well for me. I’m finding more fairways. I also made more putts today as compared to round one. The birdie on the fourth set the ball rolling for me. I had a lucky break on the seventh where the ball rebounded off a rock and fell at a point in the rough from where I had a clear shot. I salvaged a birdie there.”

The Delhi duo of Shamim Khan and Kapil Kumar shared the third spot at 10-under-134. While Shamim improved on his first round 68 with a 66 on Wednesday, Kapil shot a second straight 67.

Gurgaon’s Shubhankar Sharma dropped three places from overnight tied second after his 70 that took his tally to nine-under-135.

Local lad Udayan Mane, who was also joint second in round one, slipped to tied sixth at eight-under-136 as he carded a 71 on day two. Mane was joined by amateur and fellow Bengalurean Rahul Ravi and Sri Lankan Anura Rohana in a three-way tie for sixth.

Bengaluru’s Chikkarangappa, the pre-tournament favourite, also fell from overnight tied fifth to tied ninth at seven-under-137 courtesy his second round 70. Chikka shared ninth place with another Bengaluru golfer M Dharma, Harish K of Mysuru and Noida’s Vikrant Chopra, who returned the day’s best score of 64.

Vikrant’s eight birdies were a result of some excellent hitting as he made 15 regulations even though the putts didn’t roll in for him. Chopra, who had posted a 73 to be tied 65th on day one, hasn’t dropped a bogey since the third hole of the first round.

Kolkata’s Feroz Ali Mollah, the winner in Kochi last week, occupied tied 13th place at six-under-138 along with Abhishek Jha of Bengaluru and Sri Lankan N Thangaraja.

The cut fell at one-under-143 with 53 professionals and two amateurs making it to the last two rounds.

Delhi-based Shivendra Singh Sisodia, who was tied second in round one, followed up his opening round 65 with an 80 in round two to miss the cut by two shots at one-over-145.