Avantha Masters: Anirban, Shamim best Indians at tied seventh, Whiteford leads

Gurgaon: Peter Whiteford of Scotland, looking for his maiden win carded a four-under 68 to move two clear of Thailand’s Prom Meesawat, whose stunning round of eight-under 64 saw him make the biggest move of the day at the end of the second round of the Avantha Masters on Friday. He is now 10-under for two rounds and Meesawat is at eight-under 136. Four others are at seven-under 137 as the leaderboard was crowded setting the stage for an exciting finish over the weekend at the DLF Golf & Country Club.

India’s best came from Anirban Lahiri, who gave ample evidence of the calm that a recent meditation camp has brought in him. One over after five, he turned in even par and then had a hat-trick of birdies from 13th to 16th. He was playing with two former Indian Open champions, David Gleeson, who missed the cut, and Liang Wen-chong, who made it on the cut line. Lahiri was tied at seventh, the same as Shamim Khan (70-68).

The cut came at even par and 67 players made it. Of them there were 12 Indians, and two from the neighbourhood, who play on the Indian PGTI Tour, Mithun Perera (Sri Lanka) who shot 70-72 and Mohd Siddikur (Bangladesh) who carded 72-73.

Lahiri was satisfied with his game. “I played pretty solid today.  I thought I still missed a few opportunities. Ironically my round started rather badly with a bogey on the very first hole.  On the second hole after a really bad drive, I was staring a bogey but a great recovery shot left me with a 30 feet birdie putt. I sank it.  That set the tone for the day and I erred only once more, on the fifth.  Thereafter birdies on the sixth, and a hat-trick of birdies from the 13th to the 15th saw me through."

He added, "This is my sixth tournament round (second tournament) in 2012 and the mind is responding nicely now.  I played Phillippines last week after a long break of a month and a half, only to get the feel of tournament play before the Avantha Masters.  That helped as my driving was a bit scratchy in the Phillippines.  Right now both my driving and putting are rock solid.  Hereafter its a matter of holing putts.”

The Indians who made it included Himmat Rai, who overcame a triple bogey on 12th, his third hole of the day, to finish at 72 and at four-under he was tied 25th.

Vivek Bhandari, who stunned himself with a first round 69, was rattled with three bogeys in a row from 15th to 17th on his first nine after starting from the tenth. He recovered and finished at par to be tied 30th. Also tied at 30th were Jeev Milkha Singh, Shiv Kapur and Vijay Kumar.

SSP Chowrasia made the cut comfortably and made light of the injury scare with his second round 72 despite two bogeys in his first three holes. He had three birdies in his last four holes, which also included another bogey. He was tied 43rd.

Manav Jaini (70), Mukesh Kumar (72) and Sanjay Kumar (7) were tied 43rd at one-under for 36 holes and Gaurav Pratap Singh (72) sank a birdie on his 18th hole to make the cut at even par.

Three-time Asian Tour Order of Merit winner Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand battled to a 70 to remain in contention with a tied-seventh place together with eight other players including Shamim Khan and Lahiri.

Shamim said, “I played fabulous golf today.  While the conditions were good and conducive, one still has to convert good scores.  Things didn’t start out too well.  There was an early hiccup in the form of a bogey on the 11th where I three-putted.  Putting is so mental that it is very important to put a bad hole behind you at this level. My shot of the day came on the sixth.  I hit a driver to the center of the fairway.  It was a tough approach shot but a well timed and directed three-wood placed my ball seven feet form the cup.  I missed an eagle by a whisker.  Six birdies overall is not too bad for a day’s work.”

Jeev said, “Course management is so vital at this level of golf.  It is this department that I need to sharpen up to be able to deliver a better performance in the coming two days.  It does get tough when after four holes into your round you wind up carding a double bogey. All-in-all a very unsatisfactory day.  After staring the week with a round of three-under one looks to capitalize and surge ahead in the next three rounds.  Well, tomorrow is another day and I have set myself a target of six-under.  This will, to my mind put me back in contention”.

Scot Whiteford, 31, overcame an early blip when he had back-to-back bogeys on 12th and 13th. Sharing the lead with Spaniard Alejandro Cañizares overnight, Whiteford moved to ten under par at the halfway stage with six birdies, three bogeys and an eagle three on the long sixth.

Meesawat birdied five of the last six holes in his best-of-the-week 64, while France’s Jean-Baptiste Gonnet compiled a 69 to sit third on seven under alongside Australian Kieran Pratt (66) and Thai duo Chapchai Nirat (67) and Kiradech Aphibarnrat (69).

Whiteford was only one under for his outward nine, but curled in a 20 foot birdie putt at the fourth. That was followed by a bogey at the next, but after reaching the green in two at the 538 yard sixth he sunk a 30 foot eagle putt and birdied the short eighth for good measure.

“I had a sticky patch at the start - it was freezing cold this morning and it's a lot harder,” added Whiteford. “But once it warmed up a bit I started to play a bit better and gave myself a few chances. I had a good eagle on the sixth which kick-started me a bit to finish well.”

Meesawat put his stunning eight-birdie, bogey-free effort down to a strong performance on the greens. “I putted really well today,” he said. “Luckily, I didn't have to use much of my driver on this course. I just played with my three-wood and my putting worked today. Everything is going well and it's good. I've been working very hard in the off season by going to the gym. People said that I've lost weight but I don't think so. I still weigh the same and I think I've bulked up a lot - I'm getting stronger and more consistent.”