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Rafiq leapfrogs into lead

September 02, 2004 19:44 IST

Rafiq Ali scorched the Cosmo-TNGF Golf Course with a six-under 66 to zoom into a one-stroke lead at nine-under 135 after round two in the Hyundai-TNGF Open 2004, being played at the par-72, Cosmo-TNGF Golf Course in Chennai.

The second leg of the Amby Valley PGAI Tour's 2004-05 season will witness a grueling battle between Rafiq and second placed Gaurav Ghei when the deciding rounds commence on Friday.

Two strokes behind the leader at tied third place are joint overnight leaders Amritinder Singh (Chandigarh) and Mukesh Kumar (Mhow), while Rookie Chandigarh golfer Harinder Gupta along with veteran Kanpur pro Shiv Prakash was placed fifth at 138.

The cut was applied at five-over 149. Among the big names that missed the bus were Indrajit Bhalotia, Rohtas Singh and C Muniyappa.

Rafiq Ali is like a well-oiled machine. The Kolkatan has enormous belief in his abilities and after years of toil, today requires very little practice to sustain his form.  It was no wonder then that the Kolkatan spent the off-season holidaying while other professionals slogged it our in a bid to improve various aspects of their game. The vacation obviously helped, as Rafiq has started his Amby Valley PGAI Tour campaign with scores of 69 and 66.

Rafiq's round commenced on the tenth tee, which the 34-year-old promptly birdied.  On the par-3 13th, he pushed his tee shot to the right of the green and chipped over to drop a shot.  This proved to be his only error of the day, as the Royal Calcutta Golf Club pro more than made amends with birdies on the 16th, first, third, sixth, seventh and ended his round in style chipping in for his seventh birdie of the day on the ninth.

"I played quite well and could have returned a better card but for two three feet missed birdie puts on the 12th and 18th," said Rafiq. 

"The Cosmo-TNGF golf course is playing really well. Especially the greens, which are truer than any I have played on in this part of the country," he added. 

Tomorrow, Rafiq will make a bid to further consolidate his position in quest for his maiden Amby Valley PGAI Tour title in three years. Rafiq's last win came at the Royal Challenge Grand Prix, Kolkata, in 2001.

Gaurav Ghei attacked the course with purpose today.  The 35-year-old, who shot a 68 on his opening round, put a foot on the accelerator early on to birdie the 13th, 15th, 16th and 17th on his outward journey. 

"The birdie on the 13th was a huge morale booster as I chipped in from the bunker," said

the India Cements-sponsored golfer. His return journey saw Ghei card two more birdies one each on the second and fourth. Then dame luck turned her face away for a fleeting moment resulting in a double bogey on the seventh for the big-hearted Delhi pro. 

"I lost my ball on that hole, which was a bit depressing as the seventh is actually a good birdie hole," he said. "My chipping was excellent and I was hitting the ball really close to the pin today," added Ghei.

Asian Games gold medallist Shiv Kapoor, in his Rookie event and season on the Amby Valley PGAI Tour event, shot a 67 close on the heels of his opening round 75 to tie for 15th place. The tenth tee starter began with consecutive birdies and went on to essay four more on the 14th, 15th, 16th and 18th and bogey on the 17th where his ball got plugged in a bunker. Five under on the first tee box, Shiv proceeded to drop a shot on the fifth but birdied the seventh for his 67.

Ahlawat continues in amateur lead: Abhishek Ahlawat fired a round of two-over 74 to assume a seven-stroke lead over Karun Alaganan at six-over 150.

SCORES (after 36 holes): 135 Rafiq Ali(69,66); 136 Gaurav Ghei(68,68); 137 Amritinder Singh(67,70), Mukesh Kumar(67,70); 138 Harinder Gupta(68,70), Shiv Prakash(69,69); 139 Anura Rohana(69,70), Amit Dube(66,73), Pappan (67,72); 140 Uttam Mundy(69,71); 141 Sandeep Syal(71,70), Feroz Ali(73,68), Vijay Kumar(72,69), Ashok Kumar(69,72); 142 Shiv Kapoor(75,67), S Madhaiah(67,75), Vivek Bhandari(71,71) Amateurs: 150 Abhishek Ahlawat(76,74); 157 Karun Alaganan(81,76).