Ghei best Indian at ninth in Volvo Masters of Asia

By V. Krishnaswamy, IANS,

Bangkok : A last-hole bogey left a bitter taste even though Gaurav Ghei continued to be the best Indian in the field at tied ninth place as the season-ending Volvo Masters of Asia golf reached the midway stage Friday.

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Errant off the tee, Ghei missed an up-and-down for par to drop a bogey on 18th and was two-under 70 for the second successive day. At four-under 140, he was alongside first round leader, Nevin Basic (74).

Ghei was five behind the in-form Lam Chih-bing (66), who surged ahead with a sensational 66 despite a bogey on par-5 17th.

“I did not play particularly well, but made no big mistakes either,” said Ghei. “The only time I went off was on 18th, when I went to the left off the tee and then into the bunker and missed an up and down.”

Jyoti Randhawa, winner of the Volvo Masters of Asia in 2004, set himself up for a good finish with two-under 70 to come to one-under 143 moving up 20 places to tied 21st. Randhawa seemed to play birdie-bogey as he had five birdies and three bogeys.

Three Indians, S.S.P. Chowrasia (73), Gaganjeet Bhullar (72) and Shiv Kapur (73) were in the bunch at tied 27th at even par 144, while Jeev Milkha Singh made a move up from almost near-bottom to tied 41st with two-under 70. He was at two-over 146. Chowrasia had two birdies and three bogeys, including one on the last.

Digvijay Singh (73) was lying 51st at four-over 148 and the amateurs Rashid Khan (78) and Rahul Bakshi (76) soaked in another lesson in top-flight company. Khan dropped from 22nd to 61st and Bakshi was at tied 65th.

Jeev Milkha Singh had a birdie on second, but dropped a double on third. On the back nine, he birdied the tenth, 14th and 15th.

“Today’s round was fair. I did make a mistake on third when I dropped a double, but other than that I was fine and had four bogeys during the round. That has helped me climb back a bit,” Jeev said.

Kapur who said he had played 17 and half great holes Thursday had an up-and-down pock-marked by a double bogey on 17th. “It has been that kind of a season, the rub of the green is not quite with me,” he quipped after birdies on sixth, seventh, 14th and 16th and bogeys on second, ninth, 13th and 17th.

Four players Chapchai Nirat (66), Mitchell Brown (67), Macus Both (68) and Filipino Antonio Lascuna (67) were tied for second at seven-under 137.

Lin Wen-tang of Chinese Taipei (70) and defending champion Prayad Marksaeng (65) looking to squeeze into world’s top-50 for a Masters berth in 2009, were sixth and eighth respectively.

Lam Chih-Bing, who has been in fine form since the Singapore Open, where he contended till he fell apart Sunday, said, “Just being here this week, I have already achieved my goal for the year. I’m very happy to be here and whatever happens will be a bonus. The main improvement over the past couple of months has been due to the fact that I went back to the short putter. I’ve made more putts.”

“After Singapore, knowing that I’ve kept my card, it’s become so much easier to play out here. It was a big monkey off the back. I can pretty much free-wheel it now. Singapore was an accumulation of what I’ve been working on with my coach (Andrew Welsford). Everything clicked that week,” he said.

Prayad, who had opened his campaign with a disappointing 74 Thursday hit top form with five birdies and one eagle to move into contention.

Prayad, 49th in the world, took advantage of the calm conditions in the morning and peppered the flags with crisp iron play to post his best score at the Thai Country Club. An eagle at the fourth hole sparked him to life and he did not look back.

Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, chasing a third straight victory, added a 74 to his first round 73.