Chasers try to rein in McGrane

Holland’s Maarten Lafeber and Kent’s Benn Barham led the afternoon chase of Indian Masters leader Damien McGrane.

Holland’s Maarten Lafeber and Kent’s Benn Barham led the afternoon chase of Indian Masters leader Damien McGrane.

The Meath man set the second-round target at eight under par following another conservative but productive round at the tight, tree-lined Delhi Golf Club.

McGrane followed up an opening five-under-par 67, good enough to put the 36-year-old second and two shots behind Indian number one Jyoti Randhawa, with a 69 in chilly conditions in the Indian capital.

Lafeber, the 2003 KLM Open champion, reeled off three consecutive birdies to end his opening nine holes on a high and reach the turn in 33, moving onto six under through 11 holes.

Barham endured a colourful start to his round, picking up just one stroke over his first five holes despite carding three birdies.

However, a birdie four at the 10th after reaching the turn in 35 moved the 32-year-old on to five under with eight holes to play of his second round alongside Sweden’s Mikael Lundberg, who is in the clubhouse after signing for a 68.

Former Hong Kong Open champions Jose Manuel Lara (70) of Spain is in the clubhouse at four under, while Indian duo Digvijay Singh and Arjun Atwal, a two-time European Tour winner, moved within four of the leader after picking up two shots through their second rounds.

Two-time US Open champion Ernie Els, at world number four the highest-ranked player in the field at the inaugural 2,500,000 US dollars (£1,282,942) event, was in danger of missing the cut despite picking up a shot over his first 10 holes courtesy of an eagle three at the eighth.

Els signed for a three-over-par 75 yesterday, highlighted by a quadruple-bogey nine on his ninth hole, to sit perilously on the cut mark which is currently set to fall at two over par.

Earlier, McGrane two-putted the 11th green, his second after beginning on the back nine, to drop a stroke, but responded to reach the turn in level par after converting a three-foot putt three holes later.

A 20-foot birdie putt at the third was disappointingly followed up with a two-putt from 15 feet a hole later after finding the greenside bunker with his approach.

But back-to-back birdies at five and six, both created after solid six-iron approach shots, quickly followed before he ended the round on a high by slipping a 10-foot birdie putt in at the last to extend his advantage.

“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 birdying the more difficult holes than the easy ones, but you take the birdies whenever you can get them,” said McGrane.

Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell also began his round with an early dropped shot, his came after missing the green at the par-three 12th before he failed to convert a 12-foot par putt, but a birdie three holes later followed after playing a pitching wedge to 12 feet.

An eight-foot birdie putt at the 17th helped McDowell reach the turn at one under before an up-and-down at the first and close-range finish at the second following a perfect nine-iron approach sent him clear.

However, McDowell knows it could have been much better after missing five birdie chances on the way home, the majority from inside 12 feet.

“I am very pleased, I played it very similar to how I did it yesterday, It’s a golf course where you can’t get to fizzed up on and be patient and hit the fairways as often as you can with irons and give myself as many chances as I can,” he said.

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