Golconda Masters: Ajeetesh stays ahead with hard fought 68, Shubhankar hot on the leader’s heels

Ajeetesh Sandhu Round 2 leader at Golconda Masters 2016Hyderabad: It was match no. 4 that hogged all the limelight on Friday at the Golconda Masters 2016 as it featured both Ajeetesh Sandhu and Shubhankar Sharma, the two pros who ended the second round in first and second positions with totals of 12-under-130 and 10-under-132 respectively.

While Chandigarh lad Ajeetesh Sandhu, who had fired a phenomenal opening round of nine-under-62, a course record, kept his two-stroke lead for the second day running as he battled to a three-under-68, Gurgaon’s Shubhankar Sharma submitted a second successive five-under-66 to be hot on the leader’s heels on a relatively cooler and windier day at the Hyderabad Golf Club (HGC).

Ajeetesh Sandhu (62-68) had a forgettable start on day two as he dropped three strokes on the first two holes. Having misjudged the wind he found the water on the first for a double-bogey and then had a lapse in concentration on the second green where he let a birdie opportunity slip away and instead landed up with a bogey.

The 27-year-old Sandhu then staged a valiant comeback with a magical run of six straight birdies from the sixth to the 11th. He pocketed strokes on the three par-5s on this stretch and also made tap-ins on a couple of par-3s thanks to some top-class tee shots. The former winner on the PGTI added another birdie to his card on the 14th before missing one of his shortest putts of the day for a bogey on the 18th.

Ajeetesh, who last won a title in 2012, said, “I was quite composed despite the poor start. I told myself that I just needed pars on the next few holes since the birdies would be there for the taking from the sixth onwards. The putter that I borrowed from my fellow professional Muniyappa at the start of the event has definitely helped my cause. I’m feeling more confident on the greens this week.

“Once you land it on the fairways of the par-5s and follow that up with good short-iron approaches, you create plenty of birdie chances here at the HGC. That’s what I’ll be focussing on once again in the last two rounds.”

Shubhankar Sharma (66-66), the winner last week in Bengaluru, kept himself in contention for a second straight title as he climbed from overnight tied fourth to second place after punctuating his round with six birdies and a bogey. His longest putt of the day was a 15-footer for birdie on the 14th.

“I’m happy to be in touch with the lead at the moment. I told myself before the round that a second score of five-under today would be ideal to set up the week for me. It’s great to have achieved that. I’ll now look to just play against the course and set myself a target for the last two days, as I had done in Bengaluru.

“My hitting has been solid since I found three of the par-5 greens in two shots today. However, my putting definitely needs to improve.”

Rolex Ranking leader Feroz Ali Mollah (68-65) of Kolkata posted the day’s joint best score of six-under-65 to take a giant leap from overnight tied 11th to third place at nine-under-133. He achieved the rare feat of making two eagles during his round. Feroz, who won the season-opener two weeks back, holed his approach from 100 yards for an eagle-two on the 18th and then chipped-in for the other eagle on the eighth.

Teenager Manu Gandas of Gurgaon also fired the day’s joint best of 65 to move into a share of fourth place with Sri Lankan Anura Rohana and Kolkata’s Shankar Das at eight-under-134.

Mhow’s Mukesh Kumar also came up with the day’s best score of 65 to be tied seventh at seven-under-135 along with Chandigarh’s Akshay Sharma and Bengalureans Khalin Joshi and R Murthy.

The cut fell at one-over-143. Fifty-two professionals made the cut. Both the Hyderabad-based professionals, Sanjay Kumar Singh and H Sunil Kumar, missed the cut. All six amateurs from Hyderabad also missed the cut.

130: Ajeetesh Sandhu (62-68)
132: Shubhankar Sharma (66-66)
133: Feroz Ali Mollah (68-65)
134: Anura Rohana (65-69), Manu Gandas (69-65), Shankar Das (67-67)
135: Mukesh Kumar (70-65), Akshay Sharma (67-68), R Murthy (69-66), Khalin Joshi (68-67)