Mohammad Siddikur of Bangladesh birdied the last hole for a five-under-par 67 to pull clear from the chasing pack at the halfway stage of the Panasonic Open India on Friday.
Siddikur, the first Bangladeshi to play and win on the Asian Tour, fired six birdies against one bogey for a six-under-par 138 total at the US$300,000 event, sanctioned by the Asian Tour and PGTI, at the venerable Delhi Golf Club.
Thailand's Prom Meesawat (69), currently third on the Order of Merit, was a further shot back, with Indians Gaganjeet Bhullar (67), a two-time Asian Tour winner, Shankar Das (69), Ashok Kumar (69) and Manav Jaini (67).
Siddikur, who won his maiden Asian Tour title in 2010, credited his hot putter for the solid round where he made 24 putts highlighted by a monster 30-foot birdie putt on the third hole.
"My putting was so good. My caddy was telling me that I needed to hole the birdie putt on the last hole (12 feet) to lead the tournament and I was very confident because I had a good line," said Siddikur, who has taken golf in Bangladesh to new heights with his solid performances on the Asian Tour.
Siddikur said his game is on the upswing since taking a one-week lesson at a golf academy at the renowned TPC Sawgrass in the United States.
"I've been struggling with distance in the last couple of years so I decided to try an American coach (Todd Jones) in Florida to help me. I went for a week and it was great for my game," said Siddikur, who finished fifth at the SAIL-SBI Open last month.
Bhullar did not miss a single fairway in a round where he sank a 30-foot chip in birdie on hole 13 followed by an eagle-three on 14 when his accurate six-iron approach shot landed six feet from the hole.
"I hit the ball really close which was different compared to yesterday. This season has just started and if I compare this season and the last, I feel that I'm hitting the ball better. I did a few changes in my swing and that has been helping in my ball striking," said Bhullar.
The big-hitting Prom, nicknamed the 'Big Dolphin', put himself in position of erasing his play-off defeat to Anirban Lahiri at the Delhi Golf Club last month. He also had a birdie on the last hole to stay in touch with the leader.
"It was definitely a better finish with a birdie on the last hole. You can't be aggressive on this course. I know I can reach the par fives in two but I'm avoiding that. I don't want to get into trouble," said Prom, whose last Asian Tour victory was in 2006.
Wade Ormsby of Australia, a former European Tour player, fired a flawless 67 but conceded that his short game could be sharper as he trailed Siddikur by two shots going into the penultimate round.
"I'm not that happy with my chipping and putting. Normally that's the best part of my game. I'm hitting all my tee shots strongly which is good for me but I wouldn't mind giving my 20 or 15 footers more chance," said the Asian Tour Qualifying School graduate.
"I'm quite happy with my score. Obviously, yesterday was a tough day and I had to come out and make the most of these conditions," he added.
Overnight leader and defending champion Anirban Lahiri of India struggled to get his round going as he returned with a 75 to lie in tied 17th place.
The halfway cut was set at five-over-par 149 with a total of 65 players making the weekend rounds.