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Johl maintains lead

May 07, 2004 17:48 IST

India's Amandeep Johl battled brutal winds to preserve his one-shot advantage at the halfway stage of the US $275,000 Macau Open, on a day when Irish star Padraig Harrington moved up the leaderboard with a bizarre bogey.

Johl, who set a new course record on Thursday with a 62, carded a second round two-under-par 69 in the Asian Tour event at Macau Golf and Country Club, which finally bared its teeth after Thursday's benign conditions.

Harrington, the world number eight, endured some high drama en route to a 67 where he finished strongly with two closing birdies. On the tight par four seventh hole, he had to hit three provisional balls due to wayward shots that found trouble. He eventually found his first ball which was unplayable and settled for a bogey five.

"I had one mishap. On the seventh, I had four balls in play at one stage and then I made bogey on that hole! So I actually played five different golf balls and then I made a five. That must be a record," said Harrington, whose two-day total of 136 is five behind the leader.

To cap his day, Harrington broke his five iron trying to get out of trouble from behind a tree on the 15th before finishing with a flourish, holing a 25-footer on 17 and then an eight foot birdie at the last.

"It was nice to birdie the last two holes to keep me in touch. Five back after 36 holes is not far behind. Another two rounds like that and I should be close enough. Yesterday was perfect conditions and I shot two under. To shoot four under on a tough day was very pleasing," he said.

Johl, searching for his first Asian Tour title, battled gallantly to keep himself ahead of compatriot Harmeet Kahlon, who carded a second straight 66 to move into second place.

"The Indians are doing well, huh?" said Johl after his round. "It's good to see Harmeet up there. I was his senior in school and we've played against each other a lot. I've beaten him a few times back home but he beat me last year in Chandigarh, and you always remember the last one," added Johl with a smile.

With the wind swirling across the par 71-layout, Johl had to save par on his opening four holes before dropping his first bogey on the 14th, his fifth hole of the day. He recovered immediately with a birdie on 15 and reeled in four birdies against two more dropped shots on his inward nine.

"The course showed its teeth today," said Johl. "It was hard judging the distances and in my first four holes, I had to get up and down for pars. Overall, I'm happy with my round and it's a good position to be in.

"It'll be the same game plan tomorrow, which is to have fun. On this course, you can't expect much and if the wind keeps blowing, it'll be bunched up closely together," he said.

Kahlon, winner of the Hero Honda Masters in 2002, was impressive with seven birdies, including two chip-ins, and missed an 18-footer on the 17th hole to tie Johl.

"I'm playing well and I'm mentally strong," said the 33-year-old Kahlon.

"I came to Macau knowing that the winds will make it tough. I putted well today and I'm just going to stick to my game plan."

American Jason Knutzon and South African Nico Van Rensburg ended the day two back on 133 while Thailand's Thaworn Wiratchant, Korean-American David Kang, Taiwanese veteran Wang Ter-chang and Vivek Bhandari of India are joint fifth, four off the lead.

Knutzon, 28, enjoyed a strong rookie season in Asia last year by finishing 31st on the money ranking. He believes a breakthrough victory is around the corner which will justify his decision to pick golf over a career with the US Air Force where his father was a pilot.

"My father was an F-16 pilot and I was kind of teetering of whether to be a fighter pilot like my dad. But golf kind of got in the way. It got me to college and I had a good college career and it has gone well. It's not been all that great but it has been good enough that you can taste it to keep in there," said Knutzon.

"I'm definitely pleased with this (68). In truth, I'm not swinging the club very well. Yesterday, I rolled it great and today I hit a few more greens with some nice punch shots. Hopefully, I can iron out a few things and be ready for the weekend," he said.

Playing from the 10th, Bhandari toured the front nine in 38 but an eagle two on the third hole sparked his comeback. He went on to birdie the sixth and ninth holes from close range. His form in the past year has been mediocre but Bhandari said that he is on the mend.

"I had a shaky start as it was gusty out there. But that eagle was nice and put me back on track. I had 40 yards to the pin and found the bottom of the cup with a wedge," said Bhandari.

Leading second round scores

131 - Amandeep Johl (IND) 62-69
132 - Harmeet Kahlon (IND) 66-66
133 - Jason Knutzon (USA) 65-68, Nico Van Rensburg (RSA) 63-70
135 - Thaworn Wiratchant (THA) 64-71, Vivek Bhandari (IND) 66-69, David Kang (KOR) 66-69, Wang Ter-Chang (TPE) 65-70
136 - Scott Barr (AUS) 66-70, Padraig Harrington (IRL) 69-67
137 - Clay Devers (USA) 67-70, Koji Katoh (JPN) 69-68
138 - Eiji Mizoguchi (JPN) 69-69, Lee Sung-Man (KOR) 71-67, Edward Loar (USA) 71-67, Sushi Ishigaki (JPN) 66-72, Ewan Porter (AUS) 68-70, Katsuhiko Yamazaki (JPN) 69-69, Rafael Ponce (ECU) 68-70, Lin Wen-Tang (TPE) 65-73
139 - Lu Wei-Lan (TPE) 68-71, Anthony Kang (USA) 68-71, Chris Williams (RSA) 66-73, Chen Tsang-Te (TPE) 70-69, Jerome Delariarte (PHI) 68-71, Yeh Chang-Ting (TPE) 70-69, Lu Wen-Teh (TPE) 68-71, Des Terblanche (RSA) 69-70, Satoshi Tomiyama (JPN) 70-69, Adam Groom (AUS) 69-70, Zhang Lian-Wei (CHN) 70-69.