Shubhankar, Rashid best Indians as SSP, Liang are the only past champions to survive cut at Hero Indian Open
Gurugram, March 29: Shubhankar Sharma and Rashid Khan led a group of eight Indians into the weekend rounds of the Hero Indian Open 2019, which interestingly has Julian Suri, an American of Indian heritage, right on top.
Suri, who missed the cut last year, is playing only his second event after a long four-month lay-off following an abdominal surgery. He carded a second successive 67 to get into double figures at 10-under 134 for a two-shot lead over South African George Coetzee (70-66) and veteran Robert Karlsson (68-68), who will turn 50 in September and be eligible to play the Senior Tour.
Shubhankar who opened and closed the front nine with birdies and dropped shots in between on the Par-5s, fourth, where he had an eagle on first day, and eighth. He just ran out of birdies after that, though he missed some chances. He also saved a couple, but dropped a shot on Par-3 16th and ended the day at 73. He was two-under and Tied-19th after two rounds.
Rashid Khan (70-72) played well around the turn with birdies on 8th, 11th and 12th in his round of 70 that had a total of four birdies against two bogeys.
But the story of the day from an Indian viewpoint was the two-time winner SSP Chawrasia, who almost joined a parade of former champions making an early exit.
Chawrasia (2016, 2017) and China’s Liang Wen Chong (2008) were the only ones among six past winners of the Hero Indian Open in the field this week to survive the cut. The diminutive Kolkata player needed a dramatic late charge to survive the cut on the line.
The other former champions who failed were Anirban Lahiri (77-71), the 2015 champion; Bangladesh’s Siddikur Rehman (76-72), the 2013 winner; Aussie David Gleeson (84-83), the 2011 champion, and Jyoti Randhawa ( 76-74), the only three-time winner (2000, 2006 and 2007).
At five-over through 34 holes – he shot 74 on first day and was three-over through 16 on the second – Chawrasia could not be blamed for feeling it was a missed cut, just like last year. He had three birdies, four bogeys and a double in the first 16 holes after starting from the tenth.
He even talked to his caddie about booking an early ticket. But then he sensed an outside chance with a good tee shot. He went for broke, ripping a driver and then a rescue and it almost fetched him the tournament’s first albatross, or double-eagle as it is often called. He landed inside five feet for an eagle.
He got a birdie on the ninth for a second day’s score of 72 and at two-over 146 he was in for the weekend.
Liang (72-73) had an equally dramatic ride, mixing an eagle and four birdies with two bogeys, a double and a triple. But one gained shot on the par-5 18th hole gave him something of a cushion and he was well inside the line when the cut came.
Lahiri (77-71) seemed to be gathering some momentum to compensate for a disappointing 5-over par 77 of the first day. Starting from tenth, he had a hat-trick of birdies on 18th, first and second to get to two-under for the day and three-over for the tournament. He had seven more holes to gain a couple of shots more to make the cut, which seemed likely at two-over. Instead he dropped back-to-back bogeys on fifth and sixth to fall to five-over. A birdie on ninth made it 71 for the day but it was not enough to keep him in for the last two rounds.