*Alex Fitzpatrick

Bengaluru, 30 March: Englishman Alex Fitzpatrick seized the halfway lead with a second straight seven-under 65  while  Kartik Sharma with five under  67 was the highest-placed Indian golfer in tied fourth at 11-under 133  at  US$300,000 The Challenge at the Karnataka Golf Association (KGA) course here on Wednesday.

Fitzpatrick (65-65), who was overnight tied second and one off the lead, took his total score to 14-under 130 in round two to lead by one shot at the event co-sanctioned by the Challenge Tour and PGTI.

Spain’s Ivan Cantero Gutierrez (66-65) occupied second place at 13-under 131 while Dutchman Lars Van Meijel (66-66) was in third position at 12-under 132.

Kartik Sharma (66-67) was tied fourth at 11-under 133. The others sharing fourth place were Switzerland’s Joel Girrbach (69-64), who shot the day’s joint best score of 64 as well as Frenchman Frederic Lacroix (67-66).

The cut was declared at two-under 142. Sixty-nine players including 66 professionals and all the three amateurs in the field made the cut. Twenty Indian players out of a total of 55 made the cut.

Twenty-four-year-old Alex Fitzpatrick, playing his rookie season on the Challenge Tour, also happens to be the younger brother of 2022 US Open champion Matthew Fitzpatrick. The man from Sheffield has gone bogey-free in the tournament so far. Fitzpatrick, who missed the cut at last week’s event at KGA, produced an eagle and five birdies on Wednesday.

The highlights of Alex’s second round included his outstanding drive on the par-4 first hole that landed on the green and set up a birdie, a 10-foot eagle conversion on the fifth and a chip-in from the bunker for birdie on the ninth.

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*Kartik Sharma

Alex, on his second trip to India, said, “I was trying to push it to the back of my mind [that I’d gone bogey-free], because normally the moment you think like that, a bogey happens straight away. We had our game plan to keep it on the fairway. You don’t need to be aggressive with these flags and the greens are so good, you can hole putts.

“A few lucky breaks, a couple of putts holed and I scored well. I’ve worked pretty hard for my long game to be good, and it’s nice to see it pay off a bit.”

The left-handed Kartik Sharma, lying tied fifth and two shots off the lead at the start of the day, sank three long birdie putts from a range of 10 to 30 feet on the back-nine. The 22-year-old Kartik, yet to register his first win, then added two more birdies courtesy his accurate chipping on the front-nine.

Kartik, currently fourth on the TATA Steel PGTI Rankings, said, “I started well then didn’t hit it great in the middle of the round but stayed patient and managed to scramble. I made some crucial par saves on the front-nine that kept me error-free. I’ve been working on a few things since the last event which I’m trying to put into practice. Importantly, I’m well-placed at the moment and need to capitalize on that.”

Aman Raj, like Kartik, too fired a flawless 67, to move up six spots and end the day in tied 10th place at nine-under 135.The duo of Udayan Mane (64) and M Dharma (66) were tied 15th at eight-under 136. Udayan fired the day’s joint best score of 64.

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