The unassuming Ranjit Singh made the most of an early morning start and fired a superb 66 to take a two-stroke lead at the end of the half-way stage of the The Hindu Open, at the Cosmo-TNGF Golf Course in Chennai n Thursday.
The Chandigarh pro had submitted a similar card in the opening round of the four-day tournament, which forms the third leg of the Amby Valley PGAI Tour 2005-06 season, for a 36-hole total of 12-under par 132.
Overnight leader SSP Chowrasia slipped to the second spot at 134 while Ashok Kumar was third at 135. Vijay Kumar was fourth at 137 while Mohd. Islam and Harinder Gupta were tied for the fifth spot at 138. Pakitani No.1 is in sole seventh spot at 139.
On a day when the greens were hard and it was difficult to stop the ball, many players failed to keep their cards clean. As many as 61 players including one amateur -- L Selvadurai of ONGC -- made the cut, which was applied at four-over 148.
Ranjit began from the tenth and was immediately in trouble on the par-4 12th, where his ball got plugged in the root of a tree and he had to take a penalty drop. He then overshot the green before making a double bogey.
However, in a complete turnaround, Ranjit, who has off-late turned religious, made a birdie on the 14th with a 10-footer. After missing a birdie on the next hole, he made five straight birdies beginning with the 16th where he made a `treacherous' birdie. After a 3-wood, 5-iron approach shot, he was in the bunker on the right from where he chipped to three-feet, when he did not have much space to work with. The rest came with his accurate hitting. He also missed an eagle on the second.
The story would have been a bit different had he not missed three more birdies from close distance on the third, fifth and sixth. The lanky pro then closed in with birdies on the last two holes, the one on the eight was a chip-in from the right bunker.
"Everything was going well for me. Well for that kind of a round, one cannot complain," said Ranjit. "I was hitting it well and my putts also sank," added the Chandigarh Golf Club pro, who hit 15 greens-in-regulation and made 28 putts for the day.
Meanwhile, SSP Chowrasia, who led overnight with a total of eight-under 64, found the going tough. Teeing off from the 10th, he flirted with birdies till he finally converted one on the 13th and one on the 16th in his front nine. The diminutive pro from Kolkata then made an ominous start on the back nine with a bogey after over-shooting the par-4 first. Frustration followed Chowrasia as he failed once again to convert those birdies. The saving grace was the birdie on the finishing hole.
"It was quite a frustrating day," admitted Chowrasia. "My hitting and putting both gave way. It was difficult to control the ball, especially from short distance," he added.
Ashok Kumar clawed back into contention with a round of four-under 68 where he made five birdies converting all the par-5s, three on the front nine and one the 16th.
"The course is not playing easy today. I think I should be happy to have come away with a 68," said Ashok.
Top scores (after 18 holes) (Pro): 132 Ranjit Singh (Chd) (66, 66); 134 SSP Chowrasia (Kol) (64,70); 135 Ashok Kumar (Del) (67,68); 137 Vijay Kumar (Lucknow) (68, 69); 138 Mohd. Islam (Patna) (71, 67), Harinder Gupta (Chd) (69, 69); 139 Matloob Rana (Pak) (69, 70); 140 Ali Sher (Del) (73, 67), C Muniyappa (71, 69), Gurbaaz Mann (71, 69), Waheed Balouch (67, 73); 141 Roop Singh (Chd) (73, 68), Naman Dawar (72, 69); 142 S Madaiah (B'lore) (72, 70), Shamim Khan (Del) (71, 71). Amateurs: 146 L Selvadurai (ONGC) (73, 73); 153 R Prithviraj (Chen) (76, 77).