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Aiken jumps into lead

Rakesh Rao
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Thomas Aiken.— Photo: R.V. Moorthy
Thomas Aiken.— Photo: R.V. Moorthy

Front-running is becoming an increasingly difficult task in the €1.8-million Avantha Masters golf here.

The trend of a new leader for each round continued when South Africa’s Thomas Aiken jumped to a three-shot lead after a stunning 10-under 62 for a tally of 18-under 198 here on Saturday. Aiken, the 2011 Spanish Open winner, ‘eagled’ the second hole and found four birdies on either side of the ‘turn’ during his flawless round.

Among the Indians, Gaganjeet Bhullar was six strokes behind Aiken in the joint eighth spot following an error-free 67. Jeev Milkha Singh, Jyoti Randhawa, Himmat Rai and Manav Jaini also improved but nine others slipped.

Abhijit Singh Chadha and Rahil Gangjee, the best Indians after two rounds, fell after failing to break par. Chadha was left to rue a bogey-double-bogey finish for a 74. Gangjee, whose front-nine 38 included a double-bogey and two bogeys, recovered to find par.

Good start

Starting four shots behind joint overnight leaders Chapchai Nirat and Liang Wen-Chong, Aiken stared with a birdie and pitch well for an ‘eagle’ on the second hole. He went on to share the lead at 14-under with Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnat and Liang. Soon, Aiken was the only leader once Liang and Aphibarnat bogeyed.

Aiken doubled his lead with a birdie on the 10th hole before Abhibarnat caught up at 15-under with a breathtaking ‘eagle’ chip from the greenside bunker on the 12th. Thereafter, the 29-year-old birdied three times to stay atop the leaderboard.

The scores: Thomas Aiken (RSA) (67, 69, 62) 198; Liang Wen-chong (Chn) (66, 66, 69) 201; Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha) (68, 68, 66), David Drysdale (Sco) (67, 67, 68) 202; Scott Hend (Aus) (67, 68, 68), Joonas Granberg (Fin) (67, 67, 69), Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) (69, 65, 69) 203; Gaganjeet Bhullar (Ind) (68, 69, 67), Jaakko Makitalo (Fin) (67, 68, 69), Julien Quesne (Fra) (69, 66, 69) and Chapchai Nirat (Tha) (66, 66, 72) 204.

Other Indians: Jeev Milkha Singh (69, 68, 69) 206; Anirban Lahiri (68, 69, 70), Rahil Gangjee (69, 66, 72) 207; Jyoti Randhawa (70, 70, 68) 208; Himmat Rai (70, 71, 68), Ashok Kumar (68, 71, 70), Abhijit Singh Chadha (66, 69, 74) 209; Manav Jaini (70, 71, 69) 210; Mukesh Kumar (72, 69, 72), Rashid Khan (67, 73, 73) 213; S. S. P. Chowrasia (68, 72, 74) 214; Ajeetesh Sandhu (72, 69, 74) and Vikrant Chopra (72, 69, 74) 215.

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