Thailand’s Poom Saksansin pulled away into a four-shot lead at the halfway stage of the TAKE Solutions Masters, the good news for India was the rise of Bengaluru boys Khalin Joshi, Chikkarangappa and Rahil Gangjee, into contention.
Even as Poom dominated proceedings on day two of the US$300,000 Asian Tour event thanks to his four-under-67 that took him to 11-under-131, Khalin Joshi, playing at his home course, too shot a 67 to make his way up to second at seven-under-135.
Chikkarangappa, another local lad, came up with a 68 to move into tied third at six-under-136. He shared third place along with Rahil Gangjee, a naturalized Bengalurean, who shot the day’s best of 66. The others bunched in tied third were Indians Sujjan Singh (69), Viraj Madappa (70) and Indonesian Rory Hie (67).
Khalin Joshi, who hit 17 greens in regulation on Friday, accumulated six birdies at the cost of two bogeys. He was exceptional with his wedges setting up tap-in birdies on three occasions. The 24-year-old, who has emerged as one of India’s leading talents in recent years, is now well-positioned to take a shot at his first Asian tour title on his home turf.
Joshi, who gained five places from his overnight tied seventh, said, “It’s nice to be in this position halfway through the week. I feel I’ve done well so far in the tough conditions as the wind has been swirling and the rough is up.
“I excelled with my wedges however I left some birdies out there as my driving and putting were not up to the mark. I’ll be working on these two aspects at the range today.
“Club selection will be the key on the last two days as the conditions can sometimes leave you wondering about the choice of club.
“I began my golfing journey at the KGA at the age of four. So I’ve literally grown up on this course, it’s almost like a second home. I really want to do well here in front of my family and friends.
“The tournament is all the more special for me as it is sponsored by TAKE Solutions who also sponsor me. When the tournament was announced, Mr. Srinivasan HR (Vice Chairman & MD, TAKE Solutions) called me up and told me that this would be my best opportunity to register my first Asian Tour win. I would like to live up to his expectations,” said a confident Joshi.
Two-time Asian Development Tour (ADT) winner Chikkarangappa too made a move as he climbed four places from his overnight tied seventh. The 23-year-old Chikka’s round was punctuated by an eagle, five birdies, two bogeys and a double-bogey.
“It’s been a rollercoaster round. I started well and was under control till the eagle on the 11th where I holed it from 50 feet. But then there were a few setbacks with a three-putt for double-bogey on the 14th and another dropped shot on the 17th,” said Chikka.
The local favourite struggled with his tee shots, making just four fairways in the whole round. But he made up for it with his brilliant putting.
He added, “I haven’t visited as many trees at the KGA as I did today. I haven’t played here with this kind of wind, a side wind on many holes. As a result I wasn’t able to draw the ball. Nonetheless I made some good comeback from tough situations and my putting was the saving grace. I feel as long as my putting clicks I’m always in with a chance.
“I just want to be in red numbers from here on and make more fairways.
“I’m really happy for my good friend Khalin. I hope we’re chasing each other on the final day. I expect big crowds on the weekend with three Bengaluru boys, Khalin, Rahil and myself in the mix.”
Rahil Gangjee stitched together five birdies on the last seven holes during his round of 66 to jump from tied 26th to tied third.
Sujjan Singh and Viraj Madappa also kept themselves in contention closing the day at six-under-136. While Viraj had a quiet day with two birdies and a bogey, Sujjan had a more eventful round featuring four birdies and two bogeys. Sujjan scrambled to make at least three extraordinary par-saves to stay in tied third.