27 December 2019: The excitement for a final flourish is building up in Jamshedpur, where the grand finale of the PGTI Tour is playing out at the Golmuri Golf Club. N Thangaraja stole the show on Friday with an ambitious 63 to take a one-stroke lead over SSP Chawrasia, Shankar Das and Gaganjeet Bhullar. Overnight leader Kapil Kumar cooled off, settling for a 70 to add to his first round 62, sliding into sixth place. The order of merit leader, Rashid Khan also shot a 70, but at 10-under he has a four-stroke cushion from his only rival this week, Chikkarangappa.
Thangaraja was in scorching form straight out of the gates, making four straight birdies to set the tone for the day. He added an eagle at the ninth to make the turn in 30 strokes. He finished the day with a birdie on the 18th hole to secure the lead with a fine 63.
There were twenty eagles on Friday, adding to the 14 that were struck in the opening round. The top 60 were all under par through 36 holes. The Tour Championship does not have a cut, which means the field of 74 remains intact through the final round on Sunday.
Jamshedpur’s Karan Taunk was no better for his course knowledge, shooting a 77 on Friday to end the second day at 3-over in 69th place.
“I’ve hit it extremely close in the first two rounds and not needed to make any long putts. I’ve dropped just one bogey so far in 36 holes and that’s been very satisfying. I’ve recorded three top-10s in Jamshedpur in the past so I’m quite confident of playing well at this venue once again. I’m very comfortable on this course,” said Thangaraja.
“I last won in March 2018 so I’m eager to end the long winless streak. I’m also not totally satisfied with my performance this season especially compared to last year when I finished 10th in the PGTI Order of Merit. I now have a chance to salvage my season with a good outing here in Jamshedpur.”
— PGTI (@PGTITOUR) December 27, 2019
Invitees storm the party
Bhullar, playing the event on a special invitation, made hay on Friday. He made an eagle at the third and padded it with a birdie at the next hole. His 64 got made at the end though, as he produced three birdies in the last four holes to soar into a tie for second with Chawrasia, also playing on a special invite, and Das. The three men are at 14-under through 36 holes, one behind Thangaraja.
Two other invitees – Jeev Milkha Singh and Jyoti Randhawa are also playing a big hand this week. Jeev is lying in T19 at 9-under 135. Jyoti shot a brilliant 65 – an eagle at the fourth and five birdies in six holes through the 17th, the highlights of another memorable day.
“Today the eagle at the start gave me a lot of momentum and confidence. Thereafter, it was smooth sailing since I hit almost all fairways and gave myself a lot of birdie opportunities. My goal was to keep the ball in play and try to attack all flags and I executed that plan well today. I expect to continue in the same manner over the next two days,” explained Bhullar.
“The layout at Golmuri has changed a lot since I last played here. The course has become tougher and demands more accuracy off the tee.”
Shankar Das shot 66 while Chawrasia added a 67 to his first round 63. Aman Raj was lying in fifth after making 64 in the second round. Like Thangaraja, he too began his round with four straight birdies at the top of his card. Raj is only two behind at 13-under, with the top five men keeping a clean sheet on Friday.
Ranjit Singh was rewarded for his consistency. A bogey free 66 pushed him into a tie for seventh with Udayan Mane (66), Om Prakash Chouhan (67), Honey Baisoya and Chiragh Kumar, both of them making a 68.
Rashid Khan stays ahead of Chikkarangappa
Rashid was forced into damage control after conceding bogeys at the 5th and 8th holes. He made three birdies on the return stretch to secure a 70, just enough to remain within striking distance of the leader. At ten-under he is tied in 12th with Aadil Bedi who shot 67 again, Jyoti Randhawa (65), Karandeep Kocchar (66), Karan Pratap Singh (65), Himmat Singh Rai (68) and Md. Zamal Hossain Mollah (70).
Delhi’s Honey Baisoya, who carded a second round of 68 to be tied seventh at 11-under-133, became only the fourth player on the PGTI to make three eagles in a single round. The three players who have previously made three eagles in a round at a PGTI event are two-time Indian Open champion Ali Sher, Veer Ahlawat and Yashas Chandra. Interestingly, Veer Ahlawat had also achieved the rare feat at the Golmuri Golf Course during the 16th TATA Open 2017.