Joshi and Chan share halfway lead at Sail-SBI Open

Khalin-JoshiNew Delhi: Asian Tour rookies Khalin Joshi of India and Qualifying School winner Chan Kim of the United States maintained their sparkling form at the SAIL-SBI Open presented by Incredible India, Ministry of Tourism by sharing the tournament’s halfway lead on Thursday.

The 20-year-old Joshi, making his professional debut on the Asian Tour, chipped in for an eagle on 14 en route to a three-under-par 69 while Chan brilliantly birdied his last four holes for a 68 and a nine-under-par 135 total in the US$300,000 Asian Tour event, which is the second leg of the 2013 season.

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Scores after round 2 of the SAIL SBI Open being played at the par 72, 6935 Yards Delhi Golf Club course (a- denotes amateur):

135 - Khalin JOSHI (IND) 66-69, Chan KIM (USA) 67-68.
136 - Rashid KHAN (IND) 72-64, SIDDIKUR (BAN) 68-68.
137 - Rahil GANGJEE (IND) 71-66.
138 - Chiragh KUMAR (IND) 68-70.
139 - Anirban LAHIRI (IND) 71-68, Pawin INGKHAPRADIT (THA) 70-69, Shiv KAPUR (IND) 69-70, Thitiphun CHUAYPRAKONG (THA) 72-67.
140 - Abhinav LOHAN (IND) 73-67, Jake HIGGINBOTTOM (AUS) 70-70, Ajeetesh SANDHU (IND) 70-70, LAM Chih Bing (SIN) 73-67, BAEK Seuk-hyun (KOR) 71-69.
A shot back are India’s Rashid Khan, who stormed into contention with a sensational 64, and Bangladeshi Siddikur, who returned a second successive 68. Another Indian Rahil Gangjee shot a 66 with two eagles to end the day two shots back.

Title holder Anirban Lahiri worked his way into the title mix with a battling 68 placing him on 139 alongside another home star Shiv Kapur, who signed for a 70, and Thai duo Pawin Ingkhapradit (69) and Thitiphun Chuayprakong (67).

Joshi, India’s number one amateur last year, continued to shine against a strong field at the challenging Delhi Golf Club. After turning in level par, he produced the shot of the round with an exquisite chip-in eagle on 14 before rolling in a six-footer at the last hole which he celebrated with a clenched fist.

“It’s great. I hit the ball good although my putting wasn’t great. I felt normal. I didn’t feel any pressure. I just wanted to go out there and do the best that I could. I’m looking forward to the next two days. If the putter is hot, I know I’ll do something,” said Joshi.

The young Indian is benefiting from some sound advice from Delhi Golf Club pro Manav Jaini, whom he is staying with this week. “He’s always told me about this golf course and to never play with the driver and to keep the ball in play. It’s the first time I have listened to him as I don’t have a driver in the bag here,” said Joshi.

The strapping Chan produced a grand-stand finish in his afternoon round to share the lead with Joshi. “Finished with four straight birdies, definitely wasn’t expecting it,” smiled Chan. “When I made the first two birdies on 15 and 16, I thought to myself ‘I’m seven under and I was two back.’ If I could make one or two birdies coming in, I would be right in there. I did feel some nerves in the last two holes and I controlled it well enough and stayed focus.

“I’ll need to keep it in play tomorrow. Today, I kept in the fairways a lot. As long as you hit fairways, the greens are not hard to attack. Just have to play smart and try to get the putter rolling.”

The ever-reliable Siddikur, who has three top-five finishes at the Delhi course over the past two years, is eager to secure his second Asian Tour victory after a second straight 68. “I think if I can maintain my game as in the first two rounds, I have a chance to win. I’ve played many times here and it’s one of my favourite courses,” said the Bangladeshi trailblazer, who was runner-up at the SAIL-SBI Open in 2011.

“I hit it great, hit it closer than yesterday but I couldn’t hole the putts. I’m missing on the opposite lines. I’m having problems reading the lines.”

The 22-year-old Khan, another highly rated young Indian, made the most of his home course knowledge with nine birdies to shoot up the leaderboard. “I know what clubs to hit and I think it can be an advantage on this golf course. I holed two 20-footers for birdies on the 12th and 14th holes and finished with three closing birdies which is always nice,” said Khan.

Pawin, 21, was delighted to move into contention at the SAIL-SBI Open, which is celebrating its sixth edition but knows he cannot get ahead of himself. “I’m not going to think about winning just yet. It’s still too far away and I’ll need to remind myself to take it one shot at a time,” said the Thai.

“I putted well. The conditions were quite windy this afternoon but I managed to control my shots, especially my tee shots. I think I only missed one fairway at the last hole but managed to save par.”

The halfway cut was set at 146 with 76 players making it into the final two rounds.

The main sponsors of the SAIL-SBI Open, which is celebrating its sixth edition, are the Steel Authority of India Ltd, State Bank of India Ltd and Incredible India, Ministry of Tourism.