Chadha draws on win­ning mem­o­ries to push leader Hie

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Sport - [email protected] times­group.com

Me­wat (Haryana): For Ab­hi­jit Chadha, the Clas­sic course is a com­fort zone. Hav­ing won here three times in dif­fer­ent stages as a ju­nior, ama­teur and pro, there is some­thing on the greens that ap­peals to his heart and game. Pos­i­tive mem­o­ries and fa­mil­iar­ity make this a favourite stop and af­ter the sec­ond round of the $300,000 Clas­sic Golf & Coun­try Club In­ter­na­tional Cham­pi­onship, the taste of ‘home’ was sweeter than ever. Start­ing on the tenth tee, the brown-eyed, bearded 28-year-old had a solo cel­e­bra­tion on the back be­fore fir­ing six birdies on the front for a 7-un­der 65 that took him to 11-un­der, just a stroke be­hind leader Rory Hie.

It was noth­ing less than he ex­pected. “I’ve worked hard for this so I know I de­serve it,” the lean-andtrim Chandi­garh golfer said, af­ter walk­ing into the shade hav­ing had a sweaty out­ing in very hu­mid con­di­tions. “I know I am bet­ter than this so a break­through will even­tu­ally come.”

Some­times there is mu­tual re­spect, and the course pro­vided him that lucky break on the 18th be­fore he made the turn. His way­ward drive ric­o­cheted off a tree onto the fair­way, and a birdie boost set up his binge on the re­turn jour­ney.

Things were not so rosy last year when he had tweaked with his swing. “It has taken me a year and a half to ad­just to it, re­ally ev­ery­thing changes.” In 2018, he did some­thing he hadn’t ex­pe­ri­enced for five years – missed the cut in a PGTI event.

He made it through Asian Tour Qual­i­fy­ing but was way­laid by a shoul­der in­jury in Jan­uary that kept him out of the game for two months till the In­dian Open in March. Happy that the Jack Nick­laus sig­na­ture course is host­ing an Asian Tour event again, he said, “In pres­sure sit­u­a­tions, you need to feel com­fort­able and the course pro­vides me that. I feel like I’m on auto pi­lot.”

While he is in­tent on mak­ing most of any op­por­tu­ni­ties on ‘mov­ing day’, one thing he surely won’t be miss­ing in the evening is the Manch­ester United vs Le­ices­ter City match. The Red Dev­ils fan would like to play Fan­tasy Man­ager in Jan­uary and buy a few play­ers but he is afraid Man City would run away with the Pre­mier­ship any­way. Run­ning away with this tro­phy is on his mind. “For the next two rounds, I want to go as low as pos­si­ble and I feel con­fi­dent on these greens.”

Look­ing over his shoul­ders, he will see his 2010 Asian Games sil­ver-win­ning team­mate Rashid Khan and tal­ented Aman Raj just a stroke be­hind.

Rashid’s bo­gey-free card was dot­ted with six birdies, three of which came out of the rough. There was a bit of a lull on the back nine but he walked off the 18th gain­ing a shot and set­ting him­self up for more Tour glory.

Patna’s Aman, who swung his first club when he was three, will be hop­ing for a first. Al­though a bo­geyend to his round of 67 left him dis­ap­pointed, he took it in his stride. “This is golf, you have to take it and move for­ward.” A top-5 fin­ish in the Pana­sonic Open last year will serve as a re­minder of his ca­pa­bil­i­ties, and some kind words from Jeev Milkha Singh will pro­vide the con­fi­dence. In­done­sia’s Rory, mean­while, re­united with the caddy who guided him at the 2009 SAIL Open here. There was a sur­prise in store in the late af­ter­noon when he re­tained the lead with two clos­ing birdies on the 8th and 9th.

The other In­di­ans

Aadil Bedi was tied-6th; Chikkarang­appa, Ankur Chadha and Ab­hi­nav Lo­han were placed tied 11th on 7-un­der; Khalin Joshi was tied 24th at five-un­der, Vi­raj Madappa tied 35th at four-un­der and Jy­oti Rand­hawa tied 63rd at one-un­der. The cut was de­clared at one-un­der-143. 37 In­di­ans made the cut. Ajeetesh Sandhu (70, 74) missed the cut.

132 - Rory Hie (INA) 64-68; 133 - Ab­hi­jit Chadha (IND) 68-65; 134 - Aman Raj (IND) 67-67, Ko­suke Ha­mamoto (THA) 69-65, Rashid Khan (IND) 68-66; 135 - Su­ra­dit Yongcharoe­n­chai (THA) 66-69, Nicholas La­timer (USA) 7164, Byungjun Kim (KOR) 69-66, Aadil Bedi (IND) 67-68. (Cut: One-un­der)

TOI

Ab­hi­jit Chadha

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