India's Rashid Khan overcame a double bogey to shoot a three-under-par 69 as he kept a firm grip of the season-opening SAIL-SBI Open at the halfway stage here Thursday. The 23-year-old, who opened his campaign with a stunning 61, struggled with an outward 37 but charged home with an eagle and two birdies on his home course, the Delhi Golf Club (DGC).
His two-day total of 14-under-par 130 kept him ahead of Bangladeshi Siddikur Rahman (67), Mithun Perera of Sri Lanka (68) and Australia's Unho Park (65) in the $300,000 Asian Tour event. Switzerland's Martin Rominger charged into contention with a brilliant 63 to lie five shots back while two-time champion Anirban Lahiri of India kept himself in the hunt with a bogey-free 66 to lie six back with two rounds remaining.
Khan, the reigning Indian PGTI No.1, was happy he maintained a healthy lead over the chasing pack. "It was a really good comeback," said Khan, who lost to Lahiri in a play-off last year. "I didn't hit the ball well and was really struggling but I managed to hole two or three putts which was important. I made eagle on the first from a good putt from 25 feet and had another good birdie on seven from 25 feet. It was all because of my putting."
After finishing 40th on the 2013 Order of Merit, to earn full playing rights in 2014, Khan is eager to get his year off on a winning note on a course he knows like the back of his hand. "I was not comfortable with my swing. Even at the range, I wanted to hit a few more balls but I didn't have time. Just need to make sure I find more greens and hole more putts in the next two days," he said.
Lahiri conceded his hopes of achieving a historic third straight win which would depend largely on the runaway leader. "I can only control what I can do. At least I've given myself a chance. I need to stay in this form for the next two days if I am to challenge for the title. I'm happy as least I can have a sniff," said Lahiri.
130 - Rashid Khan (IND) 61-69.
134 - Siddikur Rahman (BAN) 67-67, Unho Park (AUS) 69-65, Mithun Perera (SRI) 66-68.
135 - Martin Rominger (SUI) 72-63.
136 - Anirban Lahiri (IND) 70-66, Digvijay Singh (IND) 68-68.
137 - S.S.P Chowrasia (IND) 68-69, Scott Barr (AUS) 67-70, Akinori Tani (JPN) 66-71.
138 - Sanjay Kumar (IND) 68-70, Steve Lewton (ENG) 68-70, Mukesh Kumar (IND) 70-68, Shamim Khan (IND) 68-70, Javi Colomo (ESP) 71-67, George Gandranata (INA) 68-70.
139 - Anura Rohana (SRI) 73-66.