Ahlawat top Indian, Nakajima holds 2-shot lead as rain stops play at Hero Indian Open

PTI | Gurugram | Updated: 29-03-2024 20:51 IST | Created: 29-03-2024 20:51 IST
Ahlawat top Indian, Nakajima holds 2-shot lead as rain stops play at Hero Indian Open

Veer Ahlawat emerged as the top Indian golfer in sole sixth position even as rookie Japanese Keita Nakajima shot a second straight 65 to grab a two-shot lead after a weather-hit second round in the Hero Indian Open here on Friday.

Ahlawat (69-66) was at nine-under, five shots behind leader Nakajima, who put himself in contention for a maiden DP World Tour title with a two-day total of 14-under.

Manu Gandas (73-65) fired a sizzling seven-under 65 on day 2 after a one-over 73 on the first day. He is now six-under and in tied-16th place. Chandigarh's Karandeep Kochhar (68-70) was also tied for 16th at six-under 136 having completed their rounds for the day.

Gaganjeet Bhullar (70-69) was tied 22nd on five-under 139, while Rashid Khan (71-69) and Shubhankar Sharma (70 and 2-under through 16) were at four-under.

However, it was Norwegian golfer Espen Kofstad, who made heads turn as he shattered the DLF Golf and Country Club course record by two shots, carding a 10-under 62 to make the cut for the weekend rounds at a 1-under total of 143.

The 36-year-old from Oslo, who had an opening round of nine-over 81, bettered the standing course mark of 8-under 64 shared by Shubhankar Sharma (in 2018) and Arjun Puri (in 2022).

When play was suspended on Friday at the DLF Golf and Country Club due to lightning, Nakajima was in the clubhouse with a two-shot lead over Frenchman Romain Langasque, who has a pair of 66s, and a resurgent Italian Matteo Manassero (65-68) at 11-under.

Lying in tied-fourth was Frenchman Jeong weon Ko (67-67) at 10-under along with overnight co-leader Joost Luiten of Netherlands, who has three more holes to go in the second round.

Among 46 players who were still to complete their second rounds was Aman Raj. The Indian golfer was three-under through 13 holes, at seven-under overall in shared eighth place.

Ahlawat's round included an eagle on his 13th hole, the par-five fourth as he started from the back nine today. For his eagle, he found the green from 260 yards with his 3-hybrid and converted a 10-foot putt.

''I started a little slow, but then I holed a few good putts after that and I got the momentum after holing the putt on the 17th, which was my eighth hole today. So, that really helped,'' he said.

''The wind is really less this year and the greens are really soft. So, even if you end up missing it on the wrong side, you still have a chance to make a par if you hit a good chip.'' Nakajima, who spent a record 87 weeks at No.1 on the World Amateur Golf Rankings before turning professional two years ago, shot 65 despite three bogeys on the trot between the 14th and the 16th, but closed with a birdie-eagle.

Nakajima, who played at three Majors in 2022 before turning pro on the strength of winning the Asia Pacific Amateur Championships in 2021, has won four times on the Japan Tour, including once as an amateur.

He also topped the Japan Tour Money list in 2023, which earned him a card on the DP World Tour this season.

The 23-year-old went six strokes clear of the field with seven birdies in his first 11 holes. Then he had an inexplicable run of three bogeys from the 14th, but he fought back to finish birdie-eagle on the closing 17th and 18th holes.

Nakajima said, ''I had a good par on two and three, then birdies on four, five, six, seven and eight. That was fun, I was excited. Birdie on 17 was so big for me because I made three bogeys in a row before that, and (then) a good eagle finish. They are tough holes, but it's fun. I enjoyed it.

''The back nine is more tricky. On the front nine, you can be more aggressive; I like the tee shots and greens on the front nine. Two more days and I'll try and do my best. I'm comfortable (at the top of the leaderboard). I'm looking forward to two more rounds.'' Anirban Lahiri, who shot 77 in the first round, was one-under with four holes to go.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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