A second successive round of 70 saw home hero Gaganjeet Bhullar join Austrian Florian Praegant at the top of the leaderboard on day two of the inaugural Gujarat Kensville Challenge, the opening event of the 2011 Challenge Tour season.
Indian Bhullar posted birdies at the third, sixth and 18th holes to move to four under par, the same mark as Praegant, who followed up his opening round of 69 with a 71.
Overnight leader Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh slipped to third place on three under par after struggling to maintain the blistering pace he had set on the opening day at Kensville Golf Club in Ahmedabad, India, which was designed by three-time European Tour champion Jeev Milkha Singh.
Singh’s compatriot Bhullar said: “It’s a long course and the greens are also tough as they’re hard at the moment, so they’re playing fast. I had trouble putting, as I’ve recently changed my putter. This is the first tournament I’ve used it, and it feels a bit heavier than my old one. I was leaving my putts a bit short early on, but I think I’m getting more accustomed to it now.
“I also changed my course management strategy today and decided to use irons off the tee instead of my driver, which I only used on seven holes. Because a lot of the holes are dog legs you can’t really afford to attack the course off the tee, so I chose to be more conservative.”
By his own admission Praegant’s game lacked its usual fluency, but after a tap-in birdie at his closing hole the Austrian could still reflect on a job well done.
The 27 year old, who suffered a career-threatening neck injury in 2006, said: “Compared to the opening day I’m not as happy with my round today, as I only hit ten greens. Some of my tee shots went awry and my short game was also a little suspect, so the only reason I shot under par was because of my putter, which was working well. Hopefully it works for me as well over the next two days.
“I don’t know much about Bhullar but I read in the papers that he’s one of India’s top players, so I’m looking forward to playing with him. But I’m just going to stick to my own game plan of trying to keep the ball in play.”
Rahman will be hoping for a more productive weekend after two bogeys and a double bogey at the fourth hole cancelled out birdies at the fifth and sixth.
The Bangladeshi dropped back to three under par, one shot clear of local favourite Abhishek Jha and a trio of Englishmen, Matt Baldwin, Daniel Denison and Matt Ford, whose round of 68 was the lowest of the day.
Ford said: “This is my first visit to India, so I didn’t know what to expect as I’d only heard stories about this country. But it’s been an excellent trip so far, and we’re all enjoying the nice, warm weather.
“I didn’t plan anything different for today. Yesterday I left my putts short, but today was much better on the greens. I missed a couple of birdie chances but I also made some good up and downs to save par, so overall I’ve got to be pretty pleased.”