Mohd Azhar shoots 67, surges into halfway lead at Tour Championship 2022

Mohd Azhar from Vikarabad, Telangana, shot a second round of five-under 67 to surge into the halfway lead at the Rs 3 crore TATA Steel Tour Championship 2022 at the Beldih and Golmuri Golf Courses here.

The 23-year-old Azhar, who hails from the Vooty Golf County and is playing only his second season as a professional, totaled 12-under 132 for two days to move up two spots from his overnight third position and enjoy a one-shot advantage over the rest of the field.

Shiv Kapur, a four-time Asian Tour winner, carded a 69 to be placed tied second along with Delhi’s Kapil Kumar (70) at 11-under 133.

The first two rounds of the richest event on the PGTI saw one half of the field play their first nine holes at Golmuri Golf Course and second nine at Beldih Golf Course while the other half of the field played Beldih first followed by Golmuri. This format will also be followed for the next two rounds of the tournament in Jamshedpur with the par for the round being 72. The leading groups will start at Golmuri and finish at Beldih.

Mohd Azhar (65-67), currently 53rd in the TATA Steel PGTI Rankings with one top-10 this season, kept firing it close to the pins during his whirlwind front-nine that featured an eagle, five birdies and two bogeys. Azhar, who turned professional in 2020, landed it within five feet on five occasions on the front-nine.

Azhar had a relatively quieter back-nine where he picked up two birdies in exchange for a double-bogey on the 17th.

Azhar said, “I hit some great tee shots today, even better second shots and the putting was consistent. I’m quite confident playing at this course because I played well here last year too. I focused on my game and took it one shot at a time.

“I’m glad that I’ve maintained myself in the top-60 in the first two years of my pro career.

“The focus for me will be on my putting over the next two days in order to score well.”

Shiv Kapur (64-69), lying overnight second, stayed in touch with the lead after a round that featured six birdies and three bogeys.

Kapil Kumar (63-70), the first round leader, dropped one spot to join Kapur in tied second. Kapil came up with four birdies and a double-bogey on Thursday.

TATA Steel PGTI Rankings leader Manu Gandas returned a 68 to be tied fourth at 10-under 134 along with Karandeep Kochhar (67) and Kartik Sharma (67).

Manu Gandas continues to be the favourite for the TATA Steel PGTI Rankings crown as he is at the moment comfortably ahead of his nearest rivals for the title – Ajeetesh Sandhu (tied 15th at six-under 138) and Yuvraj Singh Sandhu (tied 32nd at two-under 142).

Viraj Madappa fired a hole-in-one on the first hole during his round of 69 to be tied 36th at one-under 143.

Among the prominent names, Jyoti Randhawa and defending champion Udayan Mane were tied ninth at eight-under 136, SSP Chawrasia was tied 15th at six-under 138, Gaganjeet Bhullar shot the day’s best score of 65 to be tied 30th at three-under 141 and Jeev Milkha Singh was 70th at seven-over 151.

The two Jamshedpur-based professionals, Karan Taunk (one-over 145) and Kurush Heerjee (three-over 147) were placed tied 48th and tied 57th respectively.

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