Manu Gandas rises into contention with a 66 and emerges halfway leader

Manu Gandas of Gurugram, the man in sizzling form with five wins under his belt this season, continued his brilliant run with a six-under 66 that placed him at the top of the leaderboard at nine-under 135 after round two of the inaugural SSP Chawrasia Invitational presented by TAKE, a Rs. 1 crore event, being played at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC).

Indian star Anirban Lahiri fired the day’s best score of 65 to be placed second at eight-under 136. Gurugram’s Veer Ahlawat struck a 67 to be in third place at six-under 138.

Incidentally, the top three on the leaderboard, Manu, Anirban and Veer, played together in the same group on the first two days. There was only one bogey among the three players on day two. The trio will be back playing together in round three as the leader group.

TATA Steel PGTI Rankings leader Yuvraj Singh Sandhu (70) of Chandigarh was tied ninth at four-under 140. Yuvraj currently enjoys a narrow lead over second-placed Manu Gandas in the TATA Steel PGTI Rankings.

Tournament host SSP Chawrasia (70) was tied 11th at three-under 141 to be the highest-placed among the Kolkata-based professionals. Ajeetesh Sandhu (70) and Gaganjeet Bhullar (72) were also tied 11th along with Chawrasia.

Round one leader Karandeep Kochhar (77) of Chandigarh slipped to tied 20th place at one-under 143.

The cut went at four-over 148. Fifty-seven professionals made the cut.

Manu Gandas (69-66), lying overnight tied eighth, was off to a terrific start making five birdies between the 11th and the 16th where he rolled in long putts including a 27-footer on the 16th. Manu added two more birdies and a bogey on the front-nine. The highlight of his front-nine was an accurate approach from 177 yards on the third that left him a tap-in for birdie.

Gandas said, “I’m striking it fairly well, other than that I am rolling the putts quite good, so I am going to take that into the weekend as well. The first-nine was quite good but on the second-nine I missed a couple of makeable putts.

 “Both Veer and I got to learn a lot playing with Anirban as he has played at the most elite level. It’s great that our three-ball will continue in round three as well.”

 Anirban Lahiri (71-65), lying overnight tied 19th, too made a great start with five consecutive birdies from the 11th to the 15th sinking three 20 to 25 feet putts. Lahiri made further in-roads on the front-nine with two more long birdie conversions.

 Anirban said, “I think, the first half of the round where I made all my birdies was probably the least impressive as far as my ball-striking was concerned. But after that I got into a good rhythm. The body is beginning to feel better now. I was a little tired after a lot of activities on the Pro-Am day. So hopefully, I’ll just rest up and enjoy myself on this golf course on the last two days. 

 “I have played with Veer a couple of times so I knew what to expect and I know Manu and Yuvraj have been phenomenal this time on the PGTI. I was very impressed with Manu. He’s got a great temperament and great focus. Obviously he is someone who is very organized and plays to his strengths. A lot of really good signs for the future of Indian golf.”