Familiarity is such a big advantage at the Delhi Golf Club that one always expects local players to dominate whenever a big tournament comes to the venue. A lot of golfers on the domestic tour play almost on a daily basis on the course, which demands a special kind of discipline. But American Paul Peterson tore apart the script on Friday, as he played near perfect golf for a bogey-free round of 8-under 64 to take the halfway lead at the Panasonic Open India. The 29-year-old, who already has a victory on the European Tour to his credit, made four birdies on each half of the course to be on top of the leaderboard with an 11-under par 133 aggregate. The next seven names after him were all Indian.
The left-hander used his long hitting ability to good effect and dominated the par-five holes. “I managed to reach three of the par-fives in two and that was the key for scoring. I was really consistent and hit a lot of fairways and greens, and it was good to see my putts rolling in,” Peterson said.
The Scottsdale, Arizona, native has been playing around the world since he turned professional in 2012. He has featured on the Canadian Tour and divides his time between the Asian and European tours, clinching the Czech Masters last year. He has made his presence felt in Asia as well, though a victory has eluded him till now. He finished 22nd on the Order of Merit in his rookie season (2014), which improved to fifth in the subsequent year.
“Normally, American players come through the Web.com tour back home, but I have taken a different route. But I wouldn’t change anything as playing in Europe and Asia, I have picked up a lot and added to my experience. Especially, playing in different kinds of weather and on different types of courses.”
The next two names on the leaderboard could well call the DGC their second home. Local lad Shiv Kapur, who finished with three birdies on the bounce for a first round 65, added a 69 to be just a shot back. Recovering from a bout of dengue, he showed no ill-effects of the bug and felt the competitive juices flowing, though he had insisted at the beginning of the week that he would play ‘fun golf’. “It’s nice to be in the mix, though I wouldn’t say I’m surprised. I haven’t played a lot of late, but probably it has kept me rested and fresh. May be, less is more in my case. I’m playing in front of my home crowd, family and friends, which provides additional motivation,” said Kapur,.
Shamim Khan is an almost ubiquitous figure at the DGC. His father worked at the club and he lives in the neighbouring Nizamuddin area. He is a stalwart of the Professional Golf Tour of India, winning the order of merit in 2012 and leading the charts this season as well. Three of his 14 domestic titles have come at the DGC, but he hardly ventures out of India, arguing that the expenses incurred don’t make it worthwhile.
Shamim had a dream start to his second round, making birdies on his first three holes and four out of the first five, which put him in sole lead at one stage. But a shoddy back nine brought him down as bogeys on the 13th and 15th holes resulted in a round of 69 for a 9-under total.“I had an exceptional front nine as I was four-under through five holes and five-under through eight. But then missed some short putts on the back nine. I hit it pretty close on the front nine and left myself birdie putts from a range of seven feet on four occasions. I need to improve on my tee shots if I have to have a chance here. I have a good platform for the last two rounds, just need to keep the errors out from here on,” the 39-year-old said.
Another domestic stalwart in SSP Chawrasia lurks a further shot back. The Kolkata professional has history at almost all golf courses in the NCR, and no frontrunner can rest easy if Chawrasia is within striking range. He played steady golf throughout, bar a bogey at the 7th hole, but felt the par save at the 16th was a big boost to his round. “I drove left into the bush, chipped out and managed to hit the green from 207 yards. Then, I sunk a 20-feet putt to save par,” he said.
However, when everyone around him seemed to be making up ground, overnight leader Ajeetesh Sandhu went in the wrong direction. His 73 was the only over-par round among the top 27 names on the leaderboard, and put him at 6th spot at 7-under. The winner of an Asian Tour title and a Japan Challenge Tour tournament recently was off colour in the afternoon as his four birdies were undone by three bogeys and a double bogey on the par-4 16th hole. “It was a tough day. I just didn’t get a hang of the greens. I began well and had two eagle opportunities on the front nine, but missed both chances. Then there were too many errors on the back nine. Nonetheless, I’m still in the mix,” the 29-year-old said.
Scores (Indian otherwise specified): Peterson (USA) 69-64:133; Kapur 65-69: 134; Khan 66-69: 135; SSP Chawrasia 67-69: 136, Bajaj 68-68: 136.