Ashok Kumar, still in the cautious mode, shot a four-under 66 to take a two-stroke lead at the end of the half-way stage in the Rs 10-lakh Hyundai-MGC Open, the fourth and final leg of the Amby Valley PGAI Tour 2005-06 season, at the par-70 MGC Golf Links, in Chennai on Thursday.
The Delhi pro was sitting pretty at nine-under 131 after 36 holes.
Vijay Kumar, who equaled the course record of eight-under 62, catapulted to the second spot after a dismal one-over 71 opening round. The Lucknow-pro shared second place with overnight joint-leaders S Madaiah and C Muniyappa, who shot identical rounds of two-under 68 for a total of 133.
As many as three players, all from Kolkata -- Feroz Ali, SSP Chowrasia and Nabin Mondal were tied for the fifth place at 134.
Rafick Ali, Rahul Ganapathy and Sanjay Kumar shared the eighth spot at 135.
As many as 70 professionals and two amateurs made the mid-way cut that was applied at six-over 146. For the first time on the Amby Valley PGAI Tour so many players made it to the money-making rounds after the field was extended to 60-plus ties from this season.
Ashok Kumar, who had five wins in the Amby Valley PGAI Tour 2004-05 season, is looking for his first win of the current season. After having failed to capitalize in the final round of the Hindu Open last week, the 24-year-old looks determined this week. After a couple of pars, he attempted to eagle the par-5 third but two-putted from 15 feet for his first birdie. However, he soon lost a stroke on the fifth but regained to make back-to-back birdies on the seventh and eighth, only to finish his front nine with another bogey.
On the back nine, Ashok began with an under-par score and registered a hat-trick of birdies beginning from the 12th with best coming on the par-4 14th. Ashok overdrove the green but made a good up and down for a birdie. After being 10 under after that hole, he missed a 5-foot par putt and lost a stroke and parred his way back home.
"It is a very unpredictable course. You can go over while planning for a low-round. Hence I did not bother about the scores," said Ashok. "Yes I was cautious at times but I am determined to win this week," he added.
Meanwhile, Vijay Kumar, playing in the second last group scripted the day's best card. The Lucknow veteran, beginning from the 10th, began in style with an eagle on the par-5 12th. With a driver-3 iron into the wind, he sank a 20-footer for an eagle. A couple of successive birdies on the next two holes, Vijay was on a roll. After a long drive on the 16th, his chip fell short. But he holed the 20-footer from the edge with a putter for another birdie and followed it up on the 18th too.
The stocky pro continued in the same vein on his back nine, beginning with a birdie. Despite an out of bounds tee shot on the third, Vijay lost only a stroke. With birdies on the fourth and seventh, Vijay finished with eight-under.
"I don't know what happened yesterday. Before I realized, I was losing strokes," said Vijay. "Today I had a compact game. My putts were rolling and even my iron-play was good," he added.
Top scores (after 36 holes) Pros: 131 Ashok Kumar (Del) (65,66); 133 Vijay Kumar (Lucknow) 71, 62), C Muniyappa (B'lore) (65, 68), S Madaiah (B'lore) (65, 68); 134 Feroz Ali (Kol) (67, 67), SSP Chowrasia (Kol) (67, 67), Nabin Mondal (Kol) (66, 68); 135 Rafick Ali (Kol) (69, 66), Rahul Ganapathy (B'lore) (69, 66), Sanjay Kumar (68, 67); 136 Rajiv Datar (72, 64), Amritinder Singh (69, 67), Matloob Rana (68, 68), 137 Mukesh Kumar (71, 66), Sankar Das (70, 67), Sandeep Syal (69, 68), Sheeraz Kalra (68, 69). Amateurs: 143 L Selvadurai (75, 68); 146 R Prithviraj (76, 70); 147 S Jayanan (73, 74).