Delhi: Australia’s Terry Pilkadaris fired a superb second round eight-under-par 64 to lead by three shots over home favourite S.S.P. Chawrasia at the US$1.66 million Hero Indian Open on Friday.
Pilkadaris, a three-time Asian Tour winner but not since 2005, reeled in nine birdies to stay ahead of a battling Chawrasia and Nacho Elvira of Spain, who returned with a 67 and 68 respectively at the challenging Delhi Golf Club.
David Lipsky (67) of the United States, the 2014 Order of Merit winner, and Ben Evans (66) of England shared fourth place on 136s in the event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.
Lee Slattery of England produced the shot of the day when his three-wood second shot found the back of the cup for a magical albatross on the par-five eighth hole. It was his career’s first albatross and the Asian Tour’s 21st.
Pilkadaris was delighted to bounce back into form after missing four cuts in five appearances early this year due to a back injury.
“I had a trapped intercostal nerve in my back. I was moving furniture during Christmas time and hurt my back. That’s taken quite a while to recover. It was a rookie mistake and I’m no rookie so I should be shot for that one!” said Pilkadaris.
Playing without any injury concerns, the Australian took advantage of his past experience of playing at the tree-lined Delhi course where he sank 25 putts and dropped only one shot after hitting his tee shot into the bushes on the last hole.
“I felt really good out there and I kept going at flags. I kept giving myself chances and it was nice to take advantage of them. I’ve played about 40 rounds at least here and you got to keep it straight and on the fairway,” said Pilkadaris.
Chawrasia, a four-time runner-up at the Hero Indian Open, produced an eye-catching performance in a round of six birdies, two of which came from the bushes on holes 11 and 14.
“My putting saved me, no doubt. Hitting was also not bad, but whenever I got into a sticky situation, my putting saw me through.
“I just focused on my game. Before the start I saw that Terry Pilkadaris has shot a really low score, but I pushed all that out of my mind and stayed focused on my game. It’s not an easy thing to do, but you can’t let these things to play on your mind,” said Chawrasia.
After enjoying a successful 2015 season on the Challenge Tour where he won three times, the 29-year-old Elvira burst into contention for a first European Tour title thanks to five birdies.
“I’m pretty happy. I managed to stick to my routine throughout the round. I didn’t hit it as well as I did in the first round but I’m happy. On this course, you need to be patient. You don’t need to be aggressive but you need to show some respect. That’s what I tried to do today,” said Elvira.
After finishing tied 25th in Thailand last week, Rashid Khan of India battled to a 68 and will need to improve on his approach shots to give himself a fighting chance to challenge for a third Asian Tour title.
“I’m putting really good but if I can find more greens then I think I can do well. Normally people struggle with the tee shots but I’m hitting my driver long and straight. I’m just a little confused with my irons. That’s my problem right now. I need some practice to control my distance,” said Khan, who won his first title at the Delhi course in 2014.
Defending champion and reigning Asian Tour number one Lahiri fired a 71 to sit in 14th place, seven shots behind Pilkadaris.
The halfway cut was set on even-par 144 with a total of 74 players qualifying for the weekend. Padraig Harrington, a three-time Major champion, will miss the last two rounds after finishing one-shot outside the cutline.
Scores after round 2 of the Hero Indian Open 2016 being played at the par 72, 6983 Yards Delhi GC course (am - denotes amateur):
131 - Terry PILKADARIS (AUS) 67-64.
134 - Nacho ELVIRA (ESP) 66-68, S.S.P CHAWRASIA (IND) 67-67.
136 - Ben EVANS (ENG) 70-66, David LIPSKY (USA) 69-67.
137 - Jorge CAMPILLO (ESP) 66-71, Rashid KHAN (IND) 69-68, Alejandro CANIZARES (ESP) 68-69.
138 - Adilson DA SILVA (BRA) 72-66, Chris PAISLEY (ENG) 70-68, Raphael JACQUELIN (FRA) 67-71, Julien QUESNE (FRA) 70-68, Gregory HAVRET (FRA) 68-70.
139 - Ross MCGOWAN (ENG) 73-66, Shiv KAPUR (IND) 72-67, Maximilian KIEFFER (GER) 69-70, Sebastien GROS (FRA) 69-70, Sanjay KUMAR (IND) 67-72, Daniel IM (USA) 65-74, Anirban LAHIRI (IND) 68-71.
140 - Antonio LASCUNA (PHI) 71-69, Soomin LEE (KOR) 72-68, Tommy FLEETWOOD (ENG) 68-72, Paul DUNNE (IRL) 74-66, Craig LEE (SCO) 70-70, Jazz JANEWATTANANOND (THA) 71-69, Honey BAISOYA (IND) 68-72, Peter UIHLEIN (USA) 72-68, Thangaraja N. (SRI) 69-71.