*Chikkarangappa S

New Delhi, 18 March: Pre-tournament home favourite Chikkarangappa S fired a brilliant second-round bogey-free six-under-par 66,  to go 10 under and take a healthy three-shot lead on the second day of the US$750,000 DGC Open at the Delhi Golf Club here on Friday.

Bunched together in shared second place were defending champion Thai Nitithorn Thippong (70), fellow countryman Sadom Kaewkanjana (67), Rashid Khan (70), Om Prakash Chouhan (68) and England’s Matt Killen (69) on seven-under 141.

On a cloudy and cooler day, as many as five Indians climbed into the top 18, three of them in the top three. In all, 24 of 49 who started the week survived the cut that came at two-over par 146.

Among those making it into the weekend were senior professionals Jyoti Randhawa (73-69), Shiv Kapur (75-69), Shamim Khan (72-70), S.S.P Chawrasia (72-70) and Manav Jaini (74-72). 

Also qualifying for the final two rounds were amateurs Yuvraj Singh (69-76) of Kapurthala, and Shaurya Bhattacharya (71-75).

“I’m in good form. Last week's performance in Thailand has definitely boosted me and brought a lot of confidence,” Chikka said after his round. ".The Bangalore-based golfer, who started on the back nine, made four birdies on his first nine, birdied his last two, and hit 18 greens in regulation said: “Honestly I am not a fan of this golf course, not a really big fan, but I am just learning how to play every year.”

“I've been putting really well. My caddy and I discussed that we would try and hit the fairways and I've been striking the ball well. He has been given a big responsibility to make sure there is no driver in the bag. As a result, I hit more fairways here than I normally do. The course is a lot softer so it was easier for us to sort of hit shots or attack the flags. Today, I started with a birdie on the 10th hole, birdied the 12th as well and then 14 and 15, so I was four under through the first six holes.  So, yeah, six birdies with 12 pars were amazing. I must have hit 18 regulations today,” added Chikka.

But for two late bogeys on 14 and 18, Rashid Khan would have held sole second place but he is still within striking distance, as are four others including Mhow’s Chouhan.

Chouhan had a blemish-free 68 on the day and he was well pleased with the effort. He said, “Have to say I’m very happy with my round today. DGC is a course where even the smallest mistake can lead to a bogey. I missed just one fairway today, on nine when I hit the ball left, got my second shot into the bunker and made a great up and down from there.”

He added, “Things are going according to plan and for the first time on this course, I have not touched my driver or three-wood, just using my 3- and 4-irons. One reason for my performance here so far is that I play and practice at Kalhaar in Ahmedabad, where the conditions and the green speeds are very similar.” 

Karandeep Kochhar dropped a shot on his closing hole, after hitting into the bushes on the left of the 18th fairway. Still, the lanky Chandigarh golfer had no complaints with his 69 which had five birdies against two bogeys.

“It was a good round, tee to green. I played well. Had a good start birdie-birdie, then kind of slowed down a little bit. Was struggling to read the greens a little bit but it was better than yesterday for sure. 

“And the back nine was better with three birdies in a row at 13, 14, 15. But a bad shot on the last hole cost me, but that's okay. Six shots behind, is not too much with two days to go especially on this golf course where anything can happen.”

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