Phatlum in pole position, Aditi best Indian at Hero Women’s Indian Open

PORNANONG PHATLUM.jpg.crop_display.jpg

Two-time champion Phatlum Pornanong of Thailand moved into the pole position, while the defending champion Swede Caroline Hedwall cracked the course record as the duo revived memories of their 2011 battle at the DLF Golf and Country Club. At the end of 36 holes in the sixth Hero Women’s Indian Open, Phatlum, second to Hedwall in 2011, carded seven-under 65 to share the lead with Australian Bree Arthur (67) at seven-under 137.

Six Indians, three each from pro and amateur ranks made the cut. The best Indian pro was Nalini Singh Siwach (73-74), tied 33rd, Sharmila Nicollet (73-76) was tied 43rd and Vani Kapoor (75-75) at tied 47th made the cut. The best Indian was an amateur, Aditi Ashok (69-74) was tied 10th and the others were Gurbani Singh (76-73), tied 43rd and Millie Saroha (76-76) tied 62nd.

Meanwhile Hedwall rebounded from opening day’s 76 to bring in a 10-under 62 – bettering the course record of 65 set by Laura Davies in 2010 - to get to six-under in sole third place at 136. Laura Davies (69) recovered from back-to-back bogeys on the 15th and 16th with a great second shot on the 18th that landed within 15 feet of the flag. She holed the eagle putt to re-kindle memories of the eagle she landed in 2010 enroute to a title win at the same course and event.

Florentyna Parker (70-71), Nontaya Srisawang, tied second in 2010, (71-70) and Elizabeth Bennett (72-69) were tied fifth at three-under 141. Behind them in tied eighth were Stefania Croce (69-73), the first-round co-leader, and Kiran Matharu (73-69), who after being four-over through six holes on Friday has not used her driver since and then found eight birdies against just two bogeys to be two-under 142.

The Indian contingent which had a brilliant start on Friday was somewhat subdued on Saturday, but 14-year-old school girl, Aditi Ashok, held her nerves to shoot a 74 that kept her as the best Indian at one-under 143 and in tied 10th alongside the likes of ISPS Handa Order of Merit leader Carlota Ciganda (75-68) and Becky Morgan (70-73).

Nalini Singh Siwach (74, three-over 147), had very contrasting front and back nines. “I just could not do anything right for first 10 holes and then everything fell in place,” said Nalini, who is due to play LET Q-School next week. “I was five-over after 10 and had four birdies and one bogey after that. It was a relief to find the rhythm back.”

Sharmila, who had another eagle on Saturday, continued to mis-read the greens while Vani Kapoor who had 10 pars to start with was still without a birdie in two days.

The only non-Indian to have played in each of the six Indian Opens, Phatlum was in blistering form. The soft-spoken Phatlum made a very slow start from the tenth with three pars and a bogey and then she exploded into form with eight birdies and six pars. She picked birdies on No. 14, 15, 17, 18, two, six, eight and nine.

Phatlum, has two wins and two top-six finishes, including a second last year in five previous starts at this event. She turns 23 two days after the end of the 2012 Hero Women’s Indian Open and smiled saying she would love an early birthday present.

“My drives today were much better than yesterday, when I only hit six fairways,” said Phatlum, who bases herself with an aunt in Washington DC. “Today I hit about 12 fairways and putted well. I made 26 putts today. I just want to play relaxed tomorrow and play shot by shot. I will practice putting and prepare for tomorrow.”

Languishing way down the leaderboard after a first round 76, the 23-year-old defending champion Hedwall moved into top gear on the second day with a course record-breaking 10-under 62, which included a three-putt start on the first and a bogey on pad-3 11th. She had nine birdies and an eagle as she moved from tied 47th to third.

Hedwall recorded a personal career best that helped her move to six-under for 36 holes. “I hit it a little bit closer but I had a lot of birdie opportunities yesterday and putted terribly, it was really bad,” said Hedwall. “Today I felt good about it and gave myself a lot of opportunities and holed a couple today too, even though I probably had five or six birdies that I could pretty much tap-in.”

Arthur, a second year LET player, went out in level par 36 with three birdies and three bogeys on the front nine. However she made a charge with five birdies on the back nine for a 67 to join Phatlum, the clubhouse leader. “I went out today with no expectations and I knew the course owed me a few shots as I got a bit unlucky yesterday,” said Arthur, making her first visit to India.

She played the back nine more aggressively. “I walked off the ninth having three-putted and got quite angry so I said, that’s it: I’m going to go for everything because I should have been four or five under on the front nine. I had a few unlucky bounces and I thought, if I keep going, I’m going to get some birdies,” said the 24-year-old from Ispwich in Queensland.

The cut fell at eight-over 152 and 71 players, including three amateurs made the cut.

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