Panasonic Open India: Ajeetesh Sandhu best Indian at third sport; Jeev Milkha Singh rolls back the years to move to T-6

New Delhi: Siddikur Rahman so enviable a record at the Delhi Golf Club that he will be the man to watch out for on the weekend at the $400,000 Panasonic Open India at the venerated Delhi Golf Club.

 Panasonic Open India: Ajeetesh Sandhu best Indian at third sport; Jeev Milkha Singh rolls back the years to move to T-6

Ajeetesh Sandhu in action at the Panasonic Open.

The 34-old-old Bangladesh golfer, who makes no secret of his liking for the Delhi Golf Club, where he has 12 Top-10s in 15 starts, but has not played here for the last three years since he finished T-2 second at the same tournament in 2015.

But he clearly remembers every nook and cranny of this demanding course, where he has been in Top-5 every time he played the Panasonic Open between 2012 and 2015.

Despite back-to-back bogeys on third and fourth holes, which were his 12th and 13th, Siddikur also holed eight birdies enroute to 66, the day’s joint best cards – also shot by two Indian debutant pros, Kshitij Naveed Kaul and Yuvraj Sandhu – and a total of 11-under 133.

Siddikur shares the lead with Suradit Yongcharoenchai (66-67), who is hoping to mark his 20th birthday on Sunday with a maiden win on the Asian Tour. Suradit, T-21 at Panasonic Open last year, was T-2 on his last visit to India for the Take Solutions in August in Bengaluru.

India’s top placed star is still Ajeetesh Sandhu, who claimed, “I have always played well at the DGC. I don’t remember having a bad finish here. I have good memories of this course from my junior days when I won a lot here.” Sandhu shot a second successive 5-under 67 to get to 10-under 134, but was still one shot off the lead.

Thai youngster Suradit Yongcharoenchai (66-67) and the Bangladesh seasoned star Siddikur Rahman (67-66) share the lead at 11-under. Sandhu, one of the seven players Tied-2nd a year ago, is now sole third.

As always in any Asian or European Tour event in India, the Indian presence stayed strong as seven of Top-14 players were India and 38 of the 74 making the cut, which fell at 2-over were home golfers.

Local DGC golfer and two-time Asian Tour winner, Rashid Khan (68-68) was sole fifth with Thailand’s Jazz Janewattanond (68-67) at sole fourth.

Veteran Jeev Milkha Singh, who has made just two cuts in 15 starts in 2018 and has just one Top-5 finish since his win in 2012 Scottish Open, rolled the years back and was T-6th with M Dharma (70-67) and four others.

One shot behind them in T-12 place were 53-year-old Mukesh Kumar (71-67), the 2016 Panasonic Open India champion; 23-year-old Aman Raj (70-68) and 17-year-old debutant pro Kshitij Naveed Kaul, indicating India’s growing depth in golf.

Suradit said, “I did nothing really different from yesterday. The fairways are still playing firm. The pin positions are pretty much like yesterday as well. This Sunday’s my 20th birthday so I definitely hope I can win my first Asian Tour title here. I just want to play my game and focus on the tee shots, which are important if you want to play well on this course.”

Sandhu, who won his only Asian Tour title at Yeangder TPC last year, said, “At DGC one has to create opportunities by hitting maximum fairways. The par-5s also provide scoring opportunities if you play them well. The key moment today was the birdie on the 11th. After starting with a bogey on the 10th, I came back well with the birdie on the next hole and that actually helped me settle down and find my rhythm.”

Jeev rolled the clock back with 69-68 and is Tied-4th. He said, “It’s been a long time since I was interviewed, so it feels great. I am not sure when I last played so well and confidently. I was patient and I managed to hole a few putts coming in. I started from the back nine, made on birdie on the 17th where I holed a 10-footer. Made the turn at one-under and birdied the fourth hole from about 20 feet. On the seventh hole, I hit a good seven-iron shot to about 15 feet and holed that as well. Went on the birdie the eighth after chipping to about six feet and made that putt. Bogey-free 68, I am very pleased with myself.”

Jeev has made just two cuts in 15 starts this year with T-18 in Taiwan as his best and he has had just one Top-5 since his win in 2012 Scottish Open, and that was T-2 behind Gaganjeet Bhullar at Indonesia Open in 2016.

Suradit, searching for his maiden Asian Tour win to coincide with his 20th birthday on Sunday, carded a bogey-free 67 after his first round 66. Siddikur, the master craftsman at the DGC, had eight birdies and two bogeys for the day’s best card of 66.

Interestingly, two Indian youngsters, both making their debut this week, Kaul and Yuvraj Sandhu also shot 66s, but with contrasting fortunes. Kaul (72-66) made the cut on his debut and was T-12 but Sandhu, despite fighting back from his first round 81 with a 66 for a 15-shot swing, missed the cut by one. Also missing cut was debutant Aadil Bedi (77-74).

Siddikur hit the ball so beautifully that he had three eagle putts. He had one from seven feet on the 14th, from 20 feet on the first and 12 feet on the eighth. “I didn’t make any of the three,” said the smiling Siddikur, “but I am still happy with the eight birdies (besides two bogeys). My strategy has been the same to keep it straight and give myself enough chances.”

Siddikur is looking for his second title at the DGC after the Hero Indian Open in 2013. Siddikur has never finished outside Top-5 in his four previous starts at the Panasonic Open India from 2011 to 2014.

Updated Date: Oct 26, 2018 20:59:53 IST