Indian star Gaganjeet Bhullar stayed on course for his eighth Asian Tour title after he eagled the last hole for a superb six-under-par 65 and grabbed the halfway lead by four shots at the storied Macao Open on Friday.
The 29-year-old Bhullar signaled his strong intentions to win the prestigious tournament for the second time in his career when he fired one eagle and five birdies against a bogey for a 13-under-par 129 total at the Macau Golf and Country Club.
Bhullar, who held a share of the overnight lead, rolled in four birdies to turn in 31. He picked up another birdie on 13 but stumbled with a lone bogey on 15 before bouncing back strongly with an eagle-three on 18.
After a solid drive down the middle of the 18th fairway, the talented Indian hit a superb three-wood second shot from about 270 yards which hit the pin flag before settling two feet from the hole for a tap-in eagle.
Ajeetesh Sandhu, also of India, continued his red-hot form to sign for a 67 and move into an outright second place, keeping up his chase for a third straight victory in three weeks at the US$500,000 full-field Asian Tour event.
Overnight co-leader Giwhan Kim of Korea returned with a 70 to trail by five shots in third place alongside Filipino ace Angelo Que, who posted a bogey-free 67. Thailand’s Prom Meesawat (67) and young Indian Shubhankar Sharma (68) shared fifth place on 137.
Reigning Order of Merit champion Scott Hend of Australia carded a 68 to tie in 20th position on 141 while defending champion Pavit Tangkamolprasert of Thailand battled to a 70 to stay a further shot back in tied-31st place.
A total of 71 players, including an amateur, made the halfway cut set at three-over-par 145 at the Macao Open, which is celebrating its 19th edition this week.
Did you know?
- Bhullar held the halfway lead for the second time at the Macao Open. The last time he held the 36-hole lead was in 2012, where he went on to seal a wire-to-wire victory. He is now chasing for an eighth Asian Tour win as well as a second Macao Open title.
- In 2012, Bhullar grabbed the halfway lead by three shots on 11-under-par 131. He shot rounds of 63, 68, 69 and 68 to win by two shots on 16-under-par 268 that year.
- Bhullar bounced back from a wrist injury, which he incurred in 2014, by winning the 2016 Shinhan Donghae Open. He went on to clinch his second title of the season two months later at the Indonesia Open.
- Bhullar amassed 25 putts in his round of 65 today. His otherwise perfect 36-hole scorecard was marred by a lone bogey on 15 in the second round.
- 2016 was the second year that Bhullar won twice in a single season in his career. He last achieved that feat in 2012, the same year when he won the Macao Open.
- Sandhu won his maiden Asian Tour title at the Yeangder Tournament Players Championship in Chinese Taipei, just a day before turning 29 two weeks ago. He followed up that victory with another play-off win at the Taiheiyo Club Challenge Tournament on the Japan Challenge Tour the following week.
- Sandhu is playing in his third attempt and the first since 2014 at the Macao Open. He has never missed the halfway cut at the storied event.
- Que, a three-time Asian Tour winner, enjoyed a tied-sixth place finish in 2012. It was his best result at the Macao Open.
Gaganjeet BHULLAR (IND) – Second Round 65 (-6), Total 129 (-13)
The eagle on 18 was the most interesting part of my round. I hit my driver to the middle of the fairway and then a three-wood from about 270 yards which hit the pin before settling two feet from the hole for a tap-in eagle.
It was good solid round. It was windy. It wasn’t easy. I thought it was slightly more difficult than yesterday. I made a good par save on the first hole and that kept me going. I was playing the right side of the fairway and I hit it into the bunker. From there, I hit it to the right of the green. I chipped it to about 10 feet and holed the par putt.
I had a few other good birdies on fourth, seventh and 13 as well. They were all inside 10 feet. I hit the ball really good today. I struggled a bit with my driving but I kept the ball in play. I guess my past experiences of playing here have helped me today.
I won’t be thinking about winning right now. The goal is to keep doing what I have been doing for the first two rounds. If I can do that, it will be fortunate for me. I had a miscalculation on 15 where I dropped my first shot of the week. I should have hit a lob wedge but I hit a sand wedge instead and three-putted from there.
I just kept doing the same after that, nothing fancy. I just told myself to stick to my game plan and I had a good finish on 18.
Ajeetesh SANDHU (IND) – Second Round 67 (-4), Total 133 (-9)
I started off quite bad. The wind was really gusting when I started this afternoon. I had a couple of loose shots and made bogeys but got it back on track after making some nice putts on holes four and six. I sank a 25-footer on four and a 15-footer on six. That set things back on track.
I played pretty well on my back nine, the way I did yesterday. I just hit a lot of fairways and greens and made putts out there. I am pretty happy with how I played today. I knew it was going to be a very tough day because the wind was up. It was swirling and it was gusting and the course is really narrow.
You have to be really patient and that’s all I want to do. I just wanted to get back on track and back to even par quickly. I wasn’t looking at the leaderboard. I just wanted to focus on my own game and play my best.
I misjudged the wind on the 18. I thought it was left to right but it wasn’t. I hit it into the left rough, laid up from there and I had a perfect yardage from there. I hit a lob wedge to about six feet and made the putt for birdie.
It’s going to be exciting tomorrow playing with Gaganjeet and Angelo Que. I am looking forward to it.
Angelo QUE (PHI) – Second Round 67 (-4), Total 134 (-8)
It was pretty tough with the wind. I enjoy playing in the wind so I guess that’s probably why I played well. I drove the ball very well today. I hit a lot of good drives although I didn’t make any birdies on the back nine. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.
It was about the same wind as yesterday. The greens were softer yesterday. It’s a bit tough in the afternoon. The birdies were just pretty standard, nothing special. I am hitting the ball really well. If you can hit the ball well off the tee and judge the wind well, you will be able to score.
I seem to like this golf course and it’s because it’s windy. I like playing on windy courses. I guess that’s why I am playing well again.