Delhi’s Rashid Khan shot the second day’s best score of five-under-67 to emerge halfway leader at the Rs. 1.5 crore McLeod Russel Tour Championship 2017. Khan, who had a dream start to the day as he birdied the first four holes, totaled 10-under-134 after 36 holes to lead by one shot at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC).
Bengaluru’s Rahil Gangjee, the only golfer to be bogey-free through the first 36 holes, registered a 68 to occupy second place at nine-under-135. Round one leader Shubhankar Sharma of Chandigarh dropped to third place after a 70 that moved his total to eight-under-136.
Rashid Khan (67-67), lying tied second and one off the lead after round one, went on the rampage at the start of round two making birdies on the first four holes thanks to some extremely accurate iron shots. Rashid, a two-time Asian Tour winner, then stumbled with a double-bogey on the seventh where he couldn’t recover from a tough lie in the rough in his first attempt.
However, Khan rallied with two long birdie conversions on the ninth and 14th to return to four-under for the day. The reigning PGTI Order of Merit champion then had a stroke of good luck on the 18th where his approach shot from the rough hit the flag stick and landed two feet from the hole thereby resulting in a tap-in birdie.
Rashid said, “Those four consecutive birdies at the start really set up my round. I was a little disappointed with the double bogey on the seventh but was thrilled to make a good comeback thereafter as I sank three birdies and didn’t drop a single shot.
“I got lucky on the last hole. I thought my approach will land beyond the green but fortunately for me it hit the flag.
“My strategy of not expecting too much from my round, paid off once again. I just told myself in the morning, let’s continue doing what I did in round one. It worked out well for me with birdies on the first four holes. One can’t expect more than that.”
Rahil Gangjee’s (67-68) consistent putting kept him in the hunt on day two as he went error-free for the second straight day. Gangjee, who grew up playing at the RCGC, made an incredible 35-footer for birdie on the 12th and also recovered well from the rough to extract a birdie on the 15th.
Gangjee said, “I was jittery at the start since I wasn’t hitting it well. But then I putted well and made all my par putts. That was crucial. I’ve been working hard on my short-game and that’s showing.
“I’ve never been bogey-free for 36 holes so that’s quite satisfying. I had seven up and downs today and that saved me a lot of strokes. I knew to stay within striking range of Rashid I’ll have to raise my game by staying patient and not forcing things. That’s what I did and it helped at the end.”
Shubhankar Sharma slipped to third after an off day with the putter. He made pars on the first 10 holes but then picked up the pace with three birdies on the next five holes. However, Sharma dropped a bogey on the 16th to close the day two behind the leader.
Local favourite SSP Chawrasia gained eight spots by rising form overnight tied 12th to tied fourth after his second round of 68. He shared fourth place with Patna’s Aman Raj at five-under-139.
The five players bunched in tied sixth at four-under-140 included Kolkata-based rookie Viraj Madappa, Sri Lankan N Thangaraja, Chandigarh’s Ajeetesh Sandhu, Khalin Joshi of Bengaluru and Gurgaon’s Veer Ahlawat.
Shivendra Singh Sisodia’s 67 was the day’s joint best score along with Rashid’s. It placed the Gurgaon professional in tied 16th at one-under-143.