Shiv Kapur and Jyoti Randhawa scorched the course to occupy the top two spots at the midway stage of the USD 600,000 Volvo Masters of Asia and keep alive the hopes of ensuring 2005 does not end as a winless year for the Indians on the Asian Tour.
While rookie Kapur overcame a minor hiccup right at the end to emerge as the sole leader at 11-under 133, defending champion Randhawa shot the day's best round of eight-under 64 on the strength of a brilliant back nine to rocket to the second spot at 10-under 134, just one behind his country mate.
The Volvo Masters of Asia has always panned out well for the Indians since its inception in 2002. While Arjun Singh lost out in a close finish and ended tied second in 2002, Randhawa was third with Harmeet Kahlon tied seventh in 2003.
In 2004 when Randhawa won, Rahil Gangjee and Jeev Milkha were tied for ninth. Both Kapur and Randhawa paid glowing tributes to each other.
"He is a fine young golfer and he is the one who is going to take over from us (seniors like Arjun Atwal, Jeev Milkha Singh and himself)," said Randhawa of Kapur.
Kapur, on his part, said, "I have never played a tournament round with him, but I did grow watching him and I have a lot of respect for him. Maybe I will learn a few things from him."
The duo will go out together in the last pairing in the third round.
The second day's story was all about Indians and Australians. If it were the Indians who were at the top two spots, Australians were occupying the next three. Marcus Both brought in a six-under to be nine-under and was in sole third place, while overnight co-leader Andrew Buckle (71) and Adam Fraser (69) were tied fourth at seven-under 134.
Gaurav Ghei was the other Indian to do well with a round of three-under 69 that placed him in tied 16 th place at three-under 139, while Harmeet Kahlon (76) and Jeev Milkha Singh (79) floundered in form and were lying way behind in tied 45th and 53rd places.
Kapur had a bogey start when began with a bad drive and found himself behind tree root. He had play out to the 18th fairway and ended with a bogey 5. But he quickly made up with three successive birdies, that included a chip in from 35 feet.
"That was a nice bonus," said Kapur. He added one more birdie on the seventh, when he came out of the bunker nicely to within two feet for a tap-in birdie. After a three-under 33 front nine, he had four birdies on the back nine and two bogeys on the 15th and the 18th.
He missed an up-and-down from eight feet on 15th and on the 18th, the wind carried his second shot into the bunker from where he had a very difficult shot to come out. He came out fine, but from about 12 feet missed the par putt for a bogey.
Randhawa going out earlier in the day, too, opened with a bogey, as he thinned a wedge shot and went over before missing a chip-putt.
"That's when I told myself that this was hardly the way to begin when I need a low number to have a chance," said Randhawa.
From thereon, he made no mistakes and slotted nine birdies from distances ranging as far as 22 feet.
The defending champion holed four birdies on the front nine to take the turn in 33 at three-under and then added five birdies on the back nine for a blistering 31.
"I'm glad I am in the hunt and it will be nice to go out with Kapur in the third round," he added.
"I reckon I putted very well," said Kapur who needed just 21 putts for his round. Interestingly, even Randhawa needed just 23 for the round.
"The greens will get firmer if the sun stays up like this and could become quicker," said Kapur, who felt the speed of the greens had gone up slightly on second day.
On whether there would be any pressure now that he was leading, Kapur shot back, "I would rather be ahead than behind. It is always better and gives you that much more of leeway. As for playing with someone of Jyoti's stature, I will play my own game and I don't really look at (my partner's) stature. I have played with Thongchai in Thailand and it does not get any bigger than that."
Randhawa felt that his short game really functioned well on Friday. "Actually I think I hit better yesterday, but my short game was better today. Anytime you come back with a low score, it is the short game that is really the key," added Randhawa.
133: Shiv Kapur (66-67)
134: Jyoti Randhawa (70-64)
135: Marcus Both (69-66)
137: Andrew Buckle (66-71), Adam Fraser (68-69)
138: Zhang Lian-Wei (72-66), Lu Wen-The (71-67)
139: Chawalit Plaphol (69-70), Scott Strange (70-69), Prom Meesawat (67-72), Chapchai Nirat (71-68) 140: Terry Pilkadaris (69-71), Simon Yates (71-69), Gary Simpson (69-71), Jason Knutzon (70-70)
141: Edward Loar (71-70), Ted Oh (68-73), Thongchai Jaidee (70-71), Rick Gibson (73-68), Thammanoon Srirot (68-73), Gaurav Ghei (72-69), Richard Moir (69-72).
133: Shiv Kapur (66-67) First
134: Jyoti Randhawa (70-64) Second
141: Gaurav Ghei (72-69) tied 16th
149: Harmeet Kahlon (73-76) tied 45
153: Jeev Milkha Singh (74-79) tied 53rd.