After all of the promising starts made by a strong Indian contingent at the 2023 Hero Indian Open, Angad Cheema was the only one who could hold on. With the conditions making the challenging course at the DLF Club in Gurugram even tougher in the second half of the day, as the wind picked up making short game on the sloping greens even trickier, Angad was able to brave through despite teeing off with the last group.
The 33-year-old shot a round of 71, one under par, to take his total score to five under par to secure his joint-second position on the leaderboard.
Angad had picked up the sport 20 years ago, when his father, Brigadier A S Cheema, took him to the Army Course in Wellington. After turning pro in 2013, Angad couldn’t spend too much time with the family, something he regretted after his father’s death in 2016.
Playing in the memory of his father, a successful round at the Indian Open would be huge for a player who, after impressing in the amateurs, has meandered on the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI).
“It’s tough when you’re down, having to pick yourself back up when you’re not getting (top 5, top 10 finishes) consistently,” Angad said. “Just playing on the PGTI helps so much, competing with the best players of this country over 25 weeks. You start playing well and that gives you a lot of confidence.”
Angad just missed out on having sole ownership of second place, suffering a narrowly close horseshoe putt for a potential birdie on the 18th hole. The greens had been tough to manage for all the players throughout the day.
“Missed a lot of opportunities within ten feet (of the hole). On the 8th, 9th, 10th hole,” he said. “The greens are hard to read, and they are very fast. As the day goes on, they tend to get harder and quicker.
“I think everyone is going to be getting bogeys on this course. So you should not let it hold you back,” he added.
Germany’s Yannik Paul, whose blistering four consecutive birdies on Thursday put him top of the leaderboard, built on his form and the favourable conditions of the first half of the day to shoot 69 and finish three under par, taking his total to 10 under and his lead at the top to a dominant five shots at the halfway stage of the tournament.
The top performer on the day, however, was Japan’s Kazuki Higa, who showed why he is the top-ranked player on this event by shooting 66 and finishing six under par. He is, so far, the only player to be able to hit a bogey-free round at this course, correcting his three over finish yesterday to shoot up the leaderboard. He still felt, though, that if he had a bit more luck on the green, he could have gone for the single-round course record of eight under.
Holder of that record, Shubhankar Sharma, had a disappointing day after impressing on Thursday. He finished the day two over, despite playing a relatively decent round, due to some poor putting. The 26-year-old needed three putts on three separate holes in his second round.
“It wasn’t the easiest to play with the wind being all over the place,” Shubhankar said. “The swirling wind was the problem, it was not very heavy but it continuously changes direction and can be very hard to read.”
Like Shubhankar, Honey Baisoya, whose six under score in the first round had turned heads, also failed to capitalise on his momentum, shooting 74 to finish two over on the day, and dropping from second to joint-sixth on the leaderboard.