Macau: Rahil Gangjee overcame a miserable start to knock down as many as five birdies over last 10 holes to become the best-placed Indian at the halfway stage of the USD 800,000 Venetian Macau Open here on Friday.
The 35-year-old from Kolkata, two over after first two holes, finally ended at four-under for the day and was two-under for 36 holes with rounds of 73 and 67 and was placed tied 15th.
As many as 10 Indians made the cut, but Jeev Milkha Singh and Jyoti Randhawa surprisingly missed out.
Arjun Atwal, returning to Asian Tour after a long hiatus added a 69 to his first round 72 and was tied 25th, alongside Sujjan Singh (70-71) and Anirban Lahiri (73-68).
Chiragh Kumar (73-69) was tied 36th, while defending champion Gaganjeet Bhullar (73-70) and Himmat Rai (72-71) were tied at 43rd.
SSP Chowrasia (72-72), Ajeetesh Sandhu and Shankar Das (72-72) also made the cut at two-over 142 in tied 57th place.
Gangjee starting out from the tenth was one-over after five holes, but then found his form later on. He birdied the 18th, his ninth, and then added four more on second half at second, sixth, seventh and eighth holes.
"That was a nice run I had on the stretch between sixth and eighth. It puts me in a decent place ahead of the weekend," said Gangjee, who is five shots behind the leader, Siddikur.
Jeev Milkha Singh and Jyoti Randhawa surprisingly missed the cut with late bogeys as Jeev carded 75 and Jyoti after a first round 74 had a 71. Both totalled 145 and missed out as the cut fell at 144. Also missing out were Digvijay Singh, Abhijit Chadha and Abhinav Lohan, all aggregating 148.
Meanwhile, South African Ernie Els charged into contention with a brilliant six-under 65 to trail halfway leader Siddikur of Bangladesh by one shot.
The four-time Major champion, who is also an Asian Tour honorary member and international ambassador, sank nine birdies against three bogeys at Macau Golf and Country Club for a two-day total of six-under-par 136.
Siddikur was equally impressive in his round of 66 which included three birdies over his closing four holes as he edged ahead of the chasing pack with his 135 total as he continued to search for a second Asian Tour victory.
The in-form Baek Seuk-hyun, who has four top-10s in his last five starts, fired a 65 to tie Els while Filipino Elmer Salvador and Ben Campbell of New Zealand will also enter the weekend rounds in tied second place after a 66 and 68 respectively.
Els showed why he is nicknamed "The Big Easy" as he effortlessly moved up the leaderboard but he was disappointed to miss a two-foot birdie chance at the last hole which would have tied Siddikur for the lead.
"The one little putt I missed at the last will sting a little bit. I was looking at the board and it would have been perfect if I could have been seven under to be in the last group. But it?s fine. I played really nice. I actually made some good putts and hit the ball nicely," said Els.
After dropping a shot on his opening hole, Els, who celebrated his 44th birthday on Thursday, launched his charge with four birdies before the turn. He looked to be in cruise control with five more birdies against two bogeys coming home.
Siddikur, the first Bangladeshi to win on the Asian Tour in 2010, produced a strong finish to snatch the halfway lead in the Venetian Macau Open as he eyed a dream showdown with his idol, Els.
He hopes to get a chance to tee up alongside Els. "Ernie is my idol. I`ve been waiting for a long time to play with him. Last few years, I`ve missed by a few groups playing with him so hopefully this week," he said.