Irish duo Damien McGrane and Graeme McDowell surged to the top of the pile at the EMAAR-MGF Indian Masters in Delhi.
McGrane took pole position after adding a 69 to his opening 67 at Delhi Golf Club to sit at the top of the pile on eight under par 136 while McDowell was two shots behind him – alongside South African Henrik Buhrmann and Frenchman Raphaël Jacquelin – after all three players carded two rounds of 69.
McGrane said: “I backed up yesterday’s round with a good round today.I played a lot of good shots and gave myself a lot of birdie chances.
"I seem to be birdieing the more difficult holes out there rather than the easier ones but really, you’d take birdies out there any time you get them.”
Level par to the turn and indeed level par the day through 13 holes of his second round, McGrane, who partnered World No 1 Tiger Woods in both rounds over the weekend in last week’s Dubai Desert Classic, made his move over an impressive closing stretch.
A six iron to eight feet at the par three fifth hole – his 14th hole of the day – gave him a birdie two before another six iron to three feet at the sixth gave him a birdie three. And, for good measure, he ended in style with a birdie three at the last, firing an eight iron to 12 feet and holing out.
“The weather this morning felt like I was back at home,” he said. “But I think we got lucky with no fog early on despite the fact it was cold and the ball was losing a little bit of distance. But the course is good and fair and if you hit good shots, you will have birdie chances.”
McDowell agreed with his fellow countryman. “The way the course is set up you have to be patient, hit it in the fairways as often as you can and that is what I have been doing.
“Patience is the key word on this course. You can’t get frustrated because the second you try and push it, that is when you find trouble and there are bogeys and double bogeys and all sorts of things waiting for you out there.”
McDowell only dropped one shot all day – that coming at the short 12th, his fourth hole of the day – when, still feeling the effects of the morning chill, his six iron tee shot came up short of the green and he failed to chip and putt for par.
But apart from that he was flawless and rolled in four birdie putts in six holes from the 15th, his only regret of the day being that he failed to take any of the many chances he presented himself with over the closing seven holes.
“I would have loved to have picked up one or two other shots coming in but I realise there is a lot of golf left to be played in this tournament yet and if I can keep hitting it the way I have been hitting it then hopefully I’ll be there or thereabouts come Sunday.”
Alongside McDowell, Asian Tour regular Buhrmann celebrated his tenth anniversary of having first competed in India with a solid second consecutive 69 to also move to six under par 138.
And he was joined later in the day by Jacquelin, playing his fifth week in a row, whose highlight of his third round was a 30 foot putt for eagle three on the 14th.
“I played really well, especially the back nine where I had a lot of chances. The 30 footer for eagle on the 14th was my big move of the day. The front nine was not easy into the wind especially after the double bogey at the second. Really that was the only shot I missed today, I was in a bush and made double but that is this golf course for you.
“I was a little bit frustrated not to make more of the chances I had but I played well. I hit the ball well and maybe this is good for the weekend, I will keep all the birdie putts for then. But it is not easy to putt, you have to stroke the ball perfectly to have a chance and that is never easy. But we will try again tomorrow and try and stay in contention with the leaders.”
Further down the leaderboard, it was a better day for two of the pre-tournament favourites, Darren Clarke and Ernie Els.
Clarke, despite suffering from a heavy cold and sickness, chipped in at the last for an eagle three and a 69 to give him a three under par total of 141 while Els – who had the horror of a quadruple bogey nine on the 18th in the first day – birdied the last for a 70 to move to one over par 145 for the tournament.
“I was three over par at the start and just trying to get it back to even today and give me a chance and then I bogey my very first hole, a par five, so I’m four over and right onto the back foot,”said Els.
“But I started hitting the ball really well midway through my round. I missed a couple of fairways like the 13th which cost me a bogey but I really played well coming in. I was just trying to get it back to even, I’m one over now so I’ll just try and get something going in the morning.
“If I can somehow get to something like six under, I might have a chance on Sunday. But it is such a great golf course because if you are off here, you are going to find out about it. I like that kind of golf. I haven’t been too patient so far but hopefully I can be a bit more patient over the weekend.”