Chennai Open Golf C’ship: Mukesh Kumar in the saddle at halfway stage, continues to lead by four

Mukesh Kumar Round 1 leader PGTI Players ChampionshipChennai: Since the Madras Gymkhana Club (MGC) Golf Course in Guindy also doubles up as a race course, it would be apt to say that Mukesh Kumar of Mhow, Madhya Pradesh, was firmly in the saddle at the end of round two of the inaugural Express Exclusive presents Chennai Open Golf Championship being played at the MGC.

The 51-year-old Mukesh Kumar (61-68), who had blasted a phenomenal nine-under-61 on day one, had a comparatively quieter second round on Wednesday as he came up with a two-under-68. Mukesh, however, kept his overnight four-stroke advantage intact. His total at the halfway stage read 11-under-129.

Gurgaon’s Deepinder Singh Kullar (65-68) and Delhi’s Honey Baisoya (67-66) shared second place at seven-under-133.

Mukesh had a slow start to the day when he three-putted for a bogey on the 11th. He then missed a 15-footer for eagle on the next but still managed a birdie there. Another birdie and bogey on the 14th and 16th meant that he made the turn at level-par.

The highlight of his round was the chip-in for birdie from the bunker on the fifth. The winner of the last two tournaments at the MGC produced another fabulous chip to set up his final birdie of the day on the seventh.

Mukesh said, “My putting let me down today. I didn’t have the same rhythm on the greens as I did during round one. I wasn’t stroking it well. I was thrilled with my chip-in birdie on the fifth where I recovered really well after first landing it in the rough and then in the bunker.

He added, “I feel a total of four to five under over the last two days will give me a very good chance of winning the title. I say this because there’s pressure in the last two rounds and those behind me would have to play out of their skins to shoot really low scores to catch up with me.

“My confidence is quite high since I’m leading by a good margin and to add to that I also know this course at the back of my hand,” said Mukesh.

Earlier in the day, Deepinder Singh Kullar, who was overnight second, seemed to be closing the gap on Mukesh as he made four birdie conversions on his first 12 holes from a range of 10 to 15 feet.

The 34-year-old Kullar, however, dropped an untimely double-bogey on the fifth after landing his tee shot out of bounds. He thus ended the day with a 68.

Kullar, who recently returned from the United States after participating in the qualifiers of the Tour, said, “My iron hitting was good today and I kept out of trouble through the round except for the fifth hole. The hooked tee shot on the fifth was the only error during the round and it cost me dearly.

“Nonetheless, the experience I gained playing in the US last month has brought in a lot of positives. The field was very strong over there and the competition was intense. After coming back from America, I posted a top-10 in my first PGTI event last week. That further raised my confidence and I’m now looking forward to another good result here in Chennai,” added Kullar, who has two top-10s to his credit on the PGTI this season.

Honey Baisoya sank six birdies against two bogeys for his 66 in round two and joined Kullar in second place.

Lucknow’s Sanjay Kumar and Bangladesh’s Md Zamal Hossain Mollah occupied tied fourth place at five-under-135.

The cut was declared at five-over-145. Fifty-four professionals made the cut.

Professional C Arul (70-73) was the only Chennai-based player to make the cut. He was placed tied 37th at three-over-143.

Chennai’s Sandeep Syal (73-74) missed the cut by two shots as he totalled seven-over-147.

Rd 2 Leading Scores:

129: Mukesh Kumar (61-68)
133: Honey Baisoya (67-66), Deepinder Singh Kullar (65-68)
135: Sanjay Kumar (68-67), Md Zamal Hossain Mollah (69-66)