Mukesh Kumar, winner in the previous tournament on the Amby Valley PGAI Tour, kept his chances of back-to-back victory as he grabbed the half-way lead in the Rs One million Hero Honda Open West 2005, at the Poona Club Golf Course on Wednesday.
The Mhow-based pro added a sizzling six-under par 65 to his overnight 69 to tally eight-under par 134 after 36 holes.
Also in hunt were Asian Tour regular Arjun Singh and defending champion Vijay Kumar, with just a stroke behind on seven-under 135, with the former making a bogey each on the last two holes to submit a card of four-under par 67 while Vijay Kumar carded five-under 66. Ranjit Singh of Chandigarh and Vinod Kumar of Delhi with their new-found form were tied for the fourth place at six-under par 136.
Exactly 50 professionals made it to the money making rounds after the cut was applied at four-over 146. Amongst the prominent names to miss the cut were old stalwarts Ali Sher and Shiv Prakash.
Mukesh Kumar, who had vowed not to commit any mistake, lived up to his promise today. After a solitary birdie in his front nine, where he saved a stroke on the par-3 second, the four-time `Champion golfer of the year', made successive birdies on the 11th and 12th and repeated the feat on the 14th and 15th. Most of his birdies were testing downhill putts which he made them with élan. Missing an eagle putt on the par-5 18th, the leader signed off with his sixth birdie of the day.
"I still have two rounds to go. It is a little early to predict the winner," said Mukesh who has never won here, despite leading the tournament several times.
Top Scores: Pros (after 36 holes): 134_Mukesh Kumar (69,65); 135_Vijay Kumar (69,66), Arjun Singh (68,67); 136_Vinod Kumar (69,67), Ranjit Singh (68,68); 137_Ashok Kumar (69,68): 138_Gurbaaz Mann (73,65), Digvijay Singh (70,68); 139_Shiv Kapur (70,69), Pradhuman Singh Guleria (69,70); 140_Sanjay Kumar (67,73).
Amateurs: 143_Jaideep Patwardhan (69,74); 147_Tarun Gogle (73,74).