PANCHKULA: Chandigarh’s Akshay Sharma was confident of capitalising at his home course in Chandigarh ahead of round two and that’s exactly what he did. After a superb 64 in the first round at Panchkula, the 30-year-old Akshay made merry in familiar conditions at the Chandigarh Golf Club with a six-under-66, a second straight bogey-free round.
Sharma thus stretched his overnight lead to three shots at 14-under-130 at the TATA Steel PGTI Players Championship 2020 Presented by Panchkula Golf Club. Karandeep Kochhar, another Chandigarh-based golfer, who played at Panchkula on Thursday, shot the day’s best overall score of seven-under-65 to rise to tied second at 11-under-133. Bengaluru’s Chikkarangappa, a 13-time winner on the PGTI, was also tied for second as a result of his 67 in Chandigarh.
Each half of the field has so far played a round each at the Panchkula Golf Club and the Chandigarh Golf Club. The action now shifts totally to the Panchkula Golf Club as it hosts the last two rounds. The halfway cut came down at four-over-148 with 54 professionals making it to the money rounds.
Akshay Sharma (64-66), the overnight leader by two shots, lived up to his own expectations of building on his lead in favourable home conditions. Akshay, currently 29th on the PGTI Order of Merit, went error-free for the second day in succession to extend his lead to three strokes.
Sharma, a winner on the PGTI in 2018, came up with the best score at Chandigarh on Thursday. Akshay made two long birdie conversions, a 12-footer and a 20-footer, on the ninth and 11th respectively. He also set up tap-in birdies with his exceptional chipping on the 13th and 16th.
“The key to today’s round was the momentum earlier on as I started with par and birdie on the first two holes. I was expecting a low score today and I achieved that so it’s quite satisfying and puts me in a strong position. Importantly, I continued to find the greens and hit 15 regulations today following up on my 17 in round one.
“As the final two rounds are in Panchkula, anyone can shoot a low round there if they hit regulation. My focus will be on placement as it was during my first round in Panchkula,” said Akshay, who finished inside the top-5 at the last PGTI event held in the Tricity in October last year.
Karandeep Kochhar (68-65) gained two spots to move into tied second as a result of his 65. Kochhar was off to an explosive start with six birdies on the front-nine which featured conversions from 25 feet, 35 feet and three quality up and downs including one from the bunker. He had a brilliant run of four straight birdies from the fifth to the eighth.
After a three-putt bogey on the 14th Karandeep came back strongly with birdies on the next three holes where he came up with some immaculate wedge shots including a chip-in on the 17th. The tall and lanky Kochhar closed with a bogey on the last which he attributed to wrong club-selection on the tee.
“My driving and iron-play have been great over the first two rounds. I made a really good start today but was a little disappointed with the mental error on the 18th. Fortunately for me, I’ve found myself on the right side of the draw as I have to now play continuously at Panchkula. It would’ve been tougher to adapt to the conditions in Panchkula had I played at Chandigarh today.
“Having worked hard on my fitness and game in recent months, I feel fitter, stronger and more confident now. Hopefully, that should reflect in my performance going ahead.”
Chikkarangappa (66-67), who was overnight sole second, produced six birdies and a bogey en route his 67 that placed him joint second along with Kochhar.
There was daylight between the top-3 and the rest as Chandigarh’s Aadil Bedi (69) and Patna’s Aman Raj (69) were next best in tied fourth at six-under-138.
Delhi’s Rashid Khan (69) was a further shot back in tied sixth along with Chandigarh’s Amrit Lal.
Gurugram-based Veer Ahlawat, playing at Panchkula, shot the day’s joint best score of 65 to take a share of 11th place at four-under-140. Ahlawat is currently second on the PGTI Order of Merit.
Kolkata’s Sunit Chowrasia, nephew of Indian golf legend SSP Chawrasia, dropped eight spots from his overnight third to tied 11th as a result of his 73.
Udayan Mane (71) of Pune, the PGTI Order of Merit leader was tied 15th at two-under-142 along with Bengaluru’s Khalin Joshi (68).Viraj Madappa (69) was tied 25th at one-under-143 while Chandigarh’s Ajeetesh Sandhu (73) was tied 35th at one-over-145.