Chonburi (Thailand): Jeev Milkha Singh and Gaganjeet Bhullar gave the Indian contingent a lot to cheer as they moved into top-5 at the midway stage of the inaugural Thailand Golf Championships on Friday.
Further up the leaderboard, Lee Westwood has turned the tournament into a one-man show with a 64 after his first round 60.
Westwood, 14 ahead at one stage, was 11 clear of Charl Schwartzel (66) at the end of the day. Tied with Masters champion Schwartzel was American Michael Thompson (66).
Six of the nine Indians survived the cut. While Jeev and Bhullar shared the fifth place at five-under 139, Jyoti Randhawa, fighting his way back into form, carded a second round 70, which till the 17th was error-free before a bogey on the tough 18th blotted his card.
He was tied 23rd at one-under 143 and his brother-in-law Digvijay Singh (70), starting from the tenth, made two birdies in his last three holes to be tied 43rd at 145.
Himmat Rai (69), staring at the prospect of an early exit at six-over, made four birdies in last eight holes to ensure weekend action at two-over 146 in tied 55th and Rahil Gangjee (75), placed comfortably at one-over for the tournament after 17, double bogeyed the 18th to go to three-over 147.
He then waited till the very end to find out he was in at tied 64th. Also making it was Indo-Australian Kunal Bhasin (71) at even par in tied 32nd.
"My game has been coming around well, even though I have missed a few cut recently. I want a good finish to end the season on a positive note and carry on when it resumes five weeks from now in the Middle East," said Jeev.
"A 68 in windy conditions such as today was good. I had six birdies with some great putts, including a 20-footer on the last, which has been among the toughest holes this week. I also had a 20-footer on sixth and a 25-footer on 10th," he added.
Jeev said he was close to attaining peak fitness.
"With the family around it is nice and relaxed. After a lot of injuries I am also coming closer to 100 per cent fitness, which should be good for next season."
On Westwood, Jeev said, "He has played amazing golf. I have not spoken to him since the Tuesday night Charity function, but to shoot 20-under for 36 holes is amazing. He is in a zone and playing the best golf of his life."
Bhullar, a witness to Chapchai Nirat`s world record 32-under in 2009 at the SAIL Open, where the Indian was second, is hoping for a strong finish to a season that started well.
"I had a win on European Challenge Tour and then threemore on Indian Tour. I also did well in Europe but things have not been as I wanted. So a good finish will go a long way to get my confidence back before the next season, where I will play in Asia and Europe," said Bhullar.
Bhullar added, "I hit the ball beautifully. I had two bad holes- a double on eighth, where I had a bad shot off the tee and struggled for a double bogey, and then the ninth. I shut those two holes from my and played the back nine well with three birdies between the 11th and 14th."
Indians missing out included Chiragh Kumar, who, after a birdie-birdie start from the tenth, managed just one more on the second and missed at least four inside 10-12 feet. But for his bogey on the second he would have squeezed in. Also going out were Shiv Kapur (74-75) and SSP Chowrasia (74-78), who, after being even par for the tournament at the turn, had a nightmare, going eight-over for his final nine with six bogeys and one double bogey.
Westwood has now birdied 50 per cent of the holes and has an eagle to boot as he boasted of one of the biggest two-round leads in professional golf.
With a stiff breeze blowing over the highly rated par 72, 7,453-yard Amata Spring course, Westwood was in total control of his game. He felt his effort this morning could have been better than the opening round`s 60, which tied the Asian Tour`s 18-hole low.
"Strange really. Today almost felt better than yesterday. It was quite tough out there. The scoring is pretty tricky. 64 is a really good score. Not that 60 wasn`t a good score yesterday! I hit a lot of good shots again and hit it close.
Delighted with two days` work," said Westwood.
"I`ll still try to play the same and try to win the tournament. I`ll try to keep the lead irrelevant and keep on playing as I`ve been playing. I`m playing pretty well and I want to maintain that and keep making birdies and no bogeys.”
The most satisfying shot of the day was making that eight or nine footer I holed at the last to keep the bogey off the card the last two days."
The cut for top-65 and ties came at three-over and just squeezing were marquee names Ryo Ishikawa (77), Sergio Garcia (71) and Darren Clarke (76). They got in as Romain Wattal (72) missed a birdie on 18th and Kim Hyung-sung (72) bogeyed his final hole, the ninth. If Wattal had birdied and Kim parred, the cut would have gone to two-over, pushing out some of the big names.