Kochhar emerges halfway leader, enjoys two-shot advantage

PANCHKULA: Chandigarh’s Karandeep Kochhar, still searching for his first win since turning professional, continued to impress at the TATA Steel PGTI Players Championship 2020 Presented by Chandigarh Golf Club as he emerged halfway leader after returning a four-under-68 on Tuesday. Kochhar, playing at his home course, the Chandigarh Golf Club, climbed one spot from his overnight tied second, taking his total to 10-under-134.

Delhi-based Arjun Prasad carded the day’s joint lowest score of 67 to move up 10 spots to joint second at eight-under-136. Mysuru’s Yashas Chandra struck a 68 to also be tied second, he made a gain of four spots. Both Arjun and Yashas played their second rounds at the Panchkula Golf Club.

Each half of the field has so far played a round each at the Chandigarh Golf Club and the Panchkula Golf Club. The action now shifts to the Chandigarh Golf Club as it hosts the last two rounds. The halfway cut came down at two-over-146 as 53 professionals made it to the money rounds.

Twenty-one-year-old Kochhar (66-68), the runner-up in Panchkula last week, continued his consistency in the Tricity swing with another solid effort where he picked up five birdies in exchange for a lone bogey.

Kochhar, whose only win on the PGTI came in 2016 while he was still an amateur, got his round going with a birdie on the second where his good chip left him an easy tap-in. He collected another birdie on the third and the made a couple of great par saves on the ninth and 10th. An accurate approach shot on the 12th earned Kochhar his third birdie. He also drove well to pick up birdies on the 13th and 16th, both par-5s. The tall and lanky golfer’s first bogey of the week came on the 16th.

Kochhar said, “I’ve been quite consistent since last week so I’m quite pleased about that. I dropped my first bogey today in three rounds (including the last round from last week’s event) and that gives me a lot of confidence going forward. “I struck it well today but could’ve driven a little better. Overall, a good round despite missing out on birdie chances on the last two holes, especially the lip out on the 18th. I’ll have the comfort of playing in my home conditions in Chandigarh on the last two days, so look forward to making the most of it.”

Arjun Prasad (69-67), another 21-year-old and a good friend of Karandeep, produced a top-notch 67 featuring six birdies and a bogey. Arjun’s round was highlighted by two birdie conversions from a range of 15 to 20 feet as well as his bunker shot on the 11th and tee shot on the par-3 13th that set up four-footers for birdie.

Prasad, who qualified for and played on the Asian Tour in his rookie season in 2017, said, “I was patient today and gave myself a lot of chances. I did well with the putter especially on the back-nine. I feel I’ve been in good rhythm since the last round of the previous event. I played three-under on the last eight holes in Panchkula last week. That gave me confidence coming into this week. It’ll be fun to play alongside Karandeep in the leader group tomorrow. We’ve both grown up playing a lot of golf together but it’s been a while since we played our last round together. So look forward to it.”

Yashas Chandra (68-68) posted a second straight 68 to share second place with Arjun. Yashas’ round included seven birdies, a bogey and a double-bogey. Chandigarh’s Akshay Sharma (68), the winner on the PGTI last week, was in a four-way tie for fourth at seven-under-137 along with Gurugram’s Veer Ahlawat (71), who slipped two spots from his overnight tied second, Chandigarh’s Ranjit Singh (67) and Kolkata’s Shankar Das (69).

Round one leader Aadil Bedi (73) of Chandigarh dropped to tied eighth position at six-under-138. The seven others in tied eighth included PGTI Order of Merit leader Udayan Mane (69) of Pune as well as local players Yuvraj Singh Sandhu (69) and Amrit Lal (70). Defending champ Rashid Khan (73) of Delhi was a further shot back in tied 17th along with Kolkata’s Divyanshu Bajaj (75), who dropped 15 places from his overnight tied second.

Chandigarh’s Ajeetesh Sandhu, Patna’s Aman Raj, Kolkata’s Viraj Madappa and Bengaluru’s Khalin Joshi were all bunched in tied 21st at two-under-142. Bengaluru’s Chikkarangppa was placed tied 35th at even-par-144.Indian star Jyoti Randhawa withdrew from the event following an injury.

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