Indian golfer Chiragh Kumar showed tremendous grit as he recovered from a poor start to fire a fantastic six-under 66 and grab a comfortable three-stroke lead at the halfway stage of the USD 400,000 Panasonic Open, here on Friday.
The 31-year-old dropped a couple of bogeys in the first four holes and ended the day with a bogey as well but in between he fired as many as nine birdies to take his two-day total to 11-under 133 here.
Overnight leader Mithun Perera of Sri Lanka, who is looking for his maiden Asian Tour title win, brought home a sedate two-under 70 to slip to the second position, while Bangladesh duo of Siddikur Rahman and Zamal Hossain and Thailand's Pawin Ingkhapradit shared the third spot.
Three other Indians were inside the top 10 with Vikrant Chopra (71, 68) managing a tied 6th spot, while Shankar Das (69, 71) and S Chikka (69, 71), who recently defended his Take Solutions titles on ADT Tour in Bengaluru, were tied 8th at the prestigious Delhi Golf Course.
Five Indians, Sanjay Kumar (70-71), Sujjan Singh (70-71), Amardip Malik (71-70), Jyoti Randhawa (69-72) and Mukesh Kumar (70-71) were in tied 12th place, while young gun Khalin Joshi (69-73) and local DGC player, Rashid Khan (71-71) were tied 18th after the second round.
Last year's runners-up, Rahil Gangjee (70,74) and five-time Asian Tour winner, Gaganjeet Bhullar (71,73) managed an even par 144 to lie tied 35th, while rookie Udayan Mane (77, 69) was tied 54th with a total of two-over 146.
A total of 71 players, including 30 Indians, made the cut which was decided at three-over 147 and Digvijay Singh (71, 76), who had won the title in 2012, and Ashok Kumar (74,73) too managed to stay for weekend action.
A 10th tee starter, Chirag dropped shots at the 11th and 13th holes but then hit a sensational birdie patch, picking up strokes from 15th to 18th holes on the back nine and on first and second in the front nine.
The Delhi golfer then added three more birdies at the 5th, 6th and 7th holes before ending the day with a bogey at the ninth where he missed a four-foot par putt. He converted seven birdie putts from a range of 10 to 15 feet in round two.
"I had a bad start with two bogeys but I told myself not to let it get to me. Some fall and some don't and I knew I had to just keep going. I was patient through out and this approach comes with age and maturity," said Chirag, who finished second at the Venetian Macao Open three weeks ago.
"I am playing well. I am taking my chances. So I knew I'll get some good score. But I wish I holed a few more birdie putts and finish higher than I did.
"I was disappointed after I missed a close birdie putt on the 14th hole. It was five feet. But things fall in place there after. I had a hot streak with six consecutive birdies. I came up with good shots and putting was the key," added Chiragh, who was part of the Indian team which won the silver medal in the 2006 Doha Asian Games.
Perera, who lost in a three-way play-off last year, stumbled on a double bogey at the 13th hole when his approach shot from the fairway bounced into the bushes. However, the Sri Lankan recovered well by picking up four birdies on his way home to stay within three shots of the leader.
"At DGC, one bad shot can take away a good round. I played quite well except for the double bogey on the 13th hole. I was on the fairway but my second shot bounced into the bush which was disappointing," said Perera, who is the son to Nandasena, a famous name on the old Asian circuit during the 1980s and 1990s.
"I played better golf compared to yesterday but overall it was a mixed day. I hit a lot of my shots close to the hole but couldn't hole the putts. I won't worry about the next two days. I'll try to get more red numbers and see where it leads me," he added.
Siddikur, who has won once at the Delhi course and finished runner-up on three occasions in the last five years, struggled on the tees.
"I should not pressure myself even though Chiragh is leading. Anything can happen here. One shot can give you huge problems here. I'll just focus on my own game and that's the key to a good score."