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08 Feb 2008 15:24
Northern Ireland’s Damien McGrane stroked a majestic 69 to take a two-shot lead at the Indian Masters on Friday as Ernie Els made amends for his disastrous opening round to scrape through the cut.
Another Irishman, Graeme McDowell, who finished fifth behind Tiger Woods in Dubai on Sunday, shares second place with South Africa’s Hendrik Buhrmann and Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin at six under for the tournament on 138.
On a cold and grey Delhi day, first-round leader Jyoti Randhawa lost the plot, firing a five-over-par 77 to be six behind McGrane.
Former Ryder Cup star Thomas Bjorn remains in the hunt at four under while United States veteran Mark O’Meara is on the fringes of the leaderboard after a 73 left him six strokes adrift.
World number four Els looked to be heading for an early flight home after bogeying the first but he rallied with an eagle at the eighth and a birdie on the 14th.
And he fared much better on the par-5 18th that undid him in round one, sinking a birdie for a 70 to leave him nine behind McGrane.
“Just the one hole yesterday [Thursday] and it could have been a little bit different, but it was a tough day for me today. I find it very difficult scoring on this golf course,” said Els.
“If I can somehow get to something like six under on Saturday, I might have a chance on Sunday.”
McGrane, who is looking for his first European Tour victory, found the conditions were much harder than on the opening day.
“The temperature was really cold out there and it was a lot more difficult than Thursday,” said the unassuming 36-year-old.
“So three-under for the day is a good number and I’m happy with that.”
He forecast a winning score of about 16-under-par, and said he would stick to the same strategy over the weekend.
“I will try to do the same thing day in and day out.
I have found a formula around the course that seems to be giving me good numbers, so I’ll try to hit the same clubs and give myself as many birdie opportunities as possible.”
The fast-improving McDowell, who won the Scandinavian Masters in 2002 and the Italia Open in 2004, said patience was key at the Lodhi course, with thick bushes awaiting anyone who strays off the fairways.
“Patience is the keyword this week,” he said.
“You just can’t get frustrated at all because the second you try and push it, that’s when you find trouble and there’s bogeys, doubles and all kinds of things waiting for you out there.”
With Randhawa slumping, the best placed Indians going into the final two days are Arjun Atwal and Digvijay Singh at four under par.
Another local hero, Shiv Kapur, who was second after the first round, crashed to a 78 for a 146 total.
Randhawa, who has won five tournaments at Delhi Golf Club, said he is still in the hunt despite a disappointing day.
“I did not feel good about my game today [Friday],” he said.
Big name casualties who missed the cut included England’s David Howell and India’s top player, Jeev Milkha Singh, who equalled his first-round 77 again Friday.
A host of Asian Tour regulars also failed to live up to expectations and miss the weekend, including Thai trio Thaworn Wiratchant, Chinnarat Phadungsil, and Chapchai Nirat.—AFP
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