At 36, Harendra Gupta has seen everything there is to see in Indian golf. More than a dozen seasons have rolled by since his picked up his first victory on the PGTI Tour way back in 2008. And like a good wine, the Chandigarh golfer continues to get better. In the Tata Steel Tour Championship, out early on Friday, Harendra took off on the Golmuri course with seven birdies and a eagle for a spectacular 63 to take a one-stroke lead into the weekend.
SSP Chawrasia played with panache, making the most of his familiarity with the course to post an imposing 61 to jump eleven spots on the leaderboard. Chawrasia is 16-under and just one behind the halfway lead. Chawrasia made nine birdies and two eagles during the round. He would have shot a 59, but bogeys at the fourth and tenth pegged Chawrasia to an eleven under score on the day. Since the tournament allows a preferred lie this week, Chawrasia’s card will not affect any records on the course.
Amardeep Malik posted three birdies on either side for a steady 66, getting his work done with a 36-hole total of 129. Both Harendra and Amardeep remained blemish free on Friday.
Chikkarangappa also made seven birdies but he conceded three bogeys including one on the 18th as he settled for a 68. The overnight leader is at 14-under at the halfway stage of the tournament. Malik and Chikkarangappa played on the Beldih course.
Harendra took off with three straight birdies from the second, before picking up pace on the second nine. He picked up six shots between the 11th and 17th holes including an eagle on the par-5 12th hole.
“I am happy with my golf today. I got off to a good start and then built on it through the round,” said Harendra. “The conditions were cold and damp early on in the day and it was not easy to control the ball. But the greens are playing great this week.”
“I missed an eagle on the 11th hole but made up for it with one on the next one. I hit a wayward tee shot on the 15th, but played an excellent 7-iron to the green and made birdie there to cap off a solid round. I am happy to be in the lead and look forward to play well this weekend.”Harendra Gupta
After a relatively sedate 69 in the opening round, Gaganjeet Bhullar caught heat on Friday. He posted four birdies in the last five holes and an eagle on the 12th of the Beldih course as he posted an imposing 63 in the second round. Bhullar is tied in fifth with Yuvraj Singh Sandhu and Arjun Prasad. The latter two brought their tools to bear at Golmuri, posting 67 and 68 respectively.
Playing with characteristic imagination, Rahil Gangjee forced his way into the top ten with a stellar 64 at Beldih. An eagle at the par-5 third hole stoked his appetite and the diminutive golfer from Kolkata added six birdies between the fifth and fourteenth holes to account for his 11-under total of 133.
Right behind Gangjee was Anirban Lahiri. The Florida resident will be disappointed with his 69, after making six birdies. Lahiri made four birdies in just five holes for a 33 on his first nine, but bogeys on the 11th and 13th negated the two birdies he made on the way home. Shiv Kapur made a relatively simpler 69, with two birdies on either side and a lone bogey on the 17th hole.
The big highlight though was the impeccable performance of Chawrasia, who posted his lowest round ever, even though it may not count considered the preferred lies this week.
“It’s the lowest number I’ve ever shot. After being three-under on the first three holes I knew I was looking at a really low number but I could’ve never imagined a score of 11-under. On day one the putts didn’t roll in for me but today everything seemed to find the hole. My driving, approach shots and chipping was also near-perfect. It was one of those days when everything just worked out wonderfully.
“My past experience of playing over these two courses on the same day and winning will definitely help me going into the last two rounds,” added SSP, who admits his energy levels are still hampered by the after-effects of Covid-19 despite having fully recovered from it back in August this year.SSP Chawrasia
Jyoti Randhawa (65) continued to play well, joining Rahil Gangjee (64), PGTI Order of Merit leader Karandeep Kochhar (68) and Akshay Sharma (63) at T8 on 11-under-133. Rashid Khan came back to life with a stellar 64 to move up to T14 at eight-under-136. Shiv Kapur (69) was lying T19 at 7-under. The defending champion Udayan Mane missed the cut at even par. The cut fell at -2.