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Jeev maintains the lead

November 07, 2003 21:51 IST

India's Jeev Milkha Singh hung on to his lead at the Hero Honda Masters on Friday after shooting a second round even-par 72 at Delhi Golf Club.

The local hero produced a battling display in the Asian PGA Tour event but his overnight two-shot advantage was reduced to one by the chasing pack, led by former Indian Open winner Vijay Kumar, Pappan and Digvijay Singh.

Jeev, who carded a superb 66 on the opening day, has a two-day total of six-under-par 138 heading into the weekend play.

Digvijay, who will represent India in next week's World Cup in America, produced an impressive round with a 68. Pappan shot a 70 while Kumar returned a 71.

Arjun Atwal, the Asian PGA Tour Order of Merit leader, carded a 71 for joint fifth place on 140 alongside compatriot Jaiveer Virk and Korea's Anthony Kang.

Victory on Sunday or a sole runner-up finish will earn him the distinction of being the first player to hit US$1 million in career earnings on Tour.

Last season's number one Jyoti Randhawa, recent Sanya Open winner Marcus Both of Australia and American Gerry Norquist are among four players tied at 141.

Jeev, a four-time winner on the Asian PGA circuit but is chasing his first win since 1999, birdied his last hole at the ninth after striking a superb six iron to three feet of the pin to maintain his lead. He sank two other birdies and had three bogeys on the card.

"I have no complains about my ball striking today. However, unlike yesterday, my putts just did not drop. It gets a lot tougher playing in the afternoon as the greens dry up. It will be an interesting battle over the next two days and I am really glad to see three other Indian players in the hunt," said the 32-year-old Jeev, who is a regular on the Japan Golf Tour.

The 36-year-old Pappan, who grew up playing golf at Delhi Golf Club, is making the most of his entry at the Hero Honda Masters. He was the last player to earn a berth in the starting field after being 21st on the reserve list.

Kumar, the 2002 Indian Open champion, could have been the sole leader if not for a disastrous triple bogey on the ninth, his last hole of the day. He stood at four-under after 17 but paid dearly for a missed approach shot where the ball landed deep in the bushes.

"I just cannot explain what happened there. I am still trying to figure that out. But apart from that, I played really solid," said the Lucknow-based pro.

Digvijay was also in tremendous form. He did not miss a single fairway and hit 15 greens in regulation. He made five birdies and his only bogey of the day came on the par-five 18th, where he pulled his second shot with a four-wood into the greenside bush.

"It was disappointing finish. Making bogey from the fairway on the 18th is criminal. But I am happy with the way I played and I am looking forward to a good finish," said Digvijay, who was third in the Indian Open at this venue last year.

The cut was applied at 148 with 73 players progressing into the weekend rounds.

Leading second round scores:
138 - Jeev Milkha Singh (IND) 66-72
139 - Pappan (IND) 69-70, Vijay Kumar (IND) 68-71, Digvijay Singh (IND) 71-68
140 - Arjun Atwal (IND) 69-71, Anthony Kang (KOR) 70-70, Jaiveer Virk (IND) 69-71
141 - Rafiq Ali (IND) 71-70, Gerry Norquist (USA) 72-69, Jyoti Randhawa (IND) 71-70, Marcus Both (AUS) 72-69
142 - Mukesh Kumar (IND) 73-69, Stephen Lindskog (SWE) 72-70, Simon Yates (SCO) 73-69, Pat Giles (AUS) 69-73,  Adam Fraser (AUS) 74-68, Terry Pilkadaris (AUS) 72-70, Vinod Kumar (IND) 70-72, Firoz Ali (IND) 72-70,  Unho Park (AUS) 72-70, Pablo Del Olmo (MEX) 68-74
143 - Scott Taylor (USA) 74-69, Thammanoon Srirot (THA) 72-71, Rafael Ponce (ECU) 74-69, Uttam Singh Mundy (IND) 72-71, Glenn Joyner (AUS) 70-73, Lam Chih Bing (SIN) 73-70

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