April 03, 2019: Lucknow’s Sanjeev Kumar produced the second day’s best score of five-under-66 at the Pune Open Golf Championship 2019 to be in a three-way tie for the halfway lead along with Sri Lankan N Thangaraja (68) and Bengaluru’s Jaibir Singh (70) at eight-under-134.
Kolkata’s Shankar Das (67) was one shot off the lead in fourth place at the Rs. 30 lakh event.
The cut came down at three-over-145 at the Poona Club Golf Course as 53 professionals made it to the money rounds.
Sanjeev Kumar (68-66), who was tied seventh and five off the lead at the start of the day, leapfrogged six spots to joint first courtesy his hot putter. The 27-year-old, a consistent performer on the PGTI who is still searching for his maiden win, began poorly on day two as he dropped a double-bogey on the second.
However, Sanjeev who has a couple of runner-up finishes to his name, rallied with five consecutive birdies from the sixth to the 10th to fight his way back into the tournament. He drained two more birdies on the back-nine to emerge as a prime contender.
Sanjeev said, “I felt good about my game from the very outset today. When I hit a terrific tee shot on the first hole, I knew it was going to be one of those days where I could do something special. I came back really well despite the early double-bogey on the second.
“I was in top form with the putter as four of my seven birdies came as a result of conversions from a distance of 15 to 20 feet. I feel my putting average has been getting better since I decided to go back to my original stance and grip with the putter last month.
“I had changed my putting stance and grip about eight years back. But with my putting not being at its best since the start of this season, I felt it was now the right time to get back to my old style.”
N Thangaraja (66-68), lying tied fourth and three off the lead after round one, found his way to the top of the leaderboard on Wednesday thanks to his accurate chipping as three of his five birdies came as a result of brilliant chip shots that led to tap-ins. He mixed five birdies with two bogeys.
Thangaraja said, “My 3-wood shots, chipping and putting were just outstanding. Now that I’m in contention I’m looking to score about 17 to 18 under this week to give myself a real chance.”
Jaibir Singh (64-70), who was in second place and one behind the leader after day one, had a dramatic round that featured six birdies, three bogeys and a double-bogey. Jaibir was two-over through his first 13 holes but turned it around with a birdie chip-in on the sixth followed by two more birdies on the seventh and eighth.
Jaibir, a 10th tee starter on day two, said, “I started well and midway through the round missed a few putts and even made a double-bogey as I lost focus a bit and got nervous since I’ve never been in this situation and led a tournament before as a professional. But I finished well with those three birdies at the end. The flourish towards the end made me feel good.
“I didn’t know what to expect after shooting a seven-under yesterday. I just didn’t want to blow it up today and I’m glad that I didn’t.”
Shankar Das, who had won at the Poona Club Golf Course back in 2011, got himself in a good position with a 67. He trailed the leaders by one.
Ahmedabad-based Samarth Dwivedi, the first round leader, slipped eight spots to tied ninth at three-under-139 after a round of 76.
Pratik Nirmale (70) was the highest-placed Pune golfer in tied 18th at one-under-141.
The five other Pune-based professionals who made the cut were, Pravin Pathare, Sagar Raghuvanshi, Rajiv Datar and Sameer Shaikh (all in tied 35th at two-over-144) as well as Akshay Damale (tied 44th at three-over-145).
Chandigarh’s Harendra Gupta, the winner of the 2016 Pune Open, also closed the day in tied 44th at three-over-145.