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Chawrasia takes two-shot lead at halfway stage in Hong Kong

Hong Kong, Nov 24 (PTI) Indian golfer SSP Chawrasia continued to move ahead in difficult and gusty conditions at the Hong Kong Club to extend his one-shot lead to two shots at the halfway stage of the UBS Hong Kong Open here.

The four-time winner on European Tour and winner of six titles on Asian Tour, Chawrasia has already been on the winner's circle this year with the Hero Indian Open and is now looking for his first European Tour title outside India.

Chawrasia, who loves tough and traditional golf courses that demand straight hitting and precise short game, displayed outstanding course management. He followed up his first round 65 with an excellent 66 in the second round.

There was a time when Chawrasia, after his birdie on par-5 13th, was five shots clear of the field. Then the Indian three-putted on the 14th for his only bogey of the day and parred the rest, while Thomas Aiken birdied 16th and 17th to get within two of Chawrasia.

Aiken produced the low round of the week so far with a brilliant 64 to move into contention.

Chawrasia was happy with his round and said, "It was a great round today. I was five-under at one time but then three-putted 14. I hit a good tee shot, good second shot to within 10 feet. My first putt went pass the hole by about three feet and I continued to miss from there. But still, it's a good score. I'm happy."

Of the other Indians, Shubhankar Sharma (66-71) tied-2nd overnight slipped to tied-15th, while Rashid Khan (71-68) moved up to T-28th from T-40th.

Mukesh Kumar (72-70) was the only other Indian to make the cut, which fell at three-over 143.

Khalin Joshi (69-74) and Shiv Kapur (70-73) missed by one shot, while S Chikkarangappa (73-71), Chiragh Kumar (74-70), Gaganjeet Bhullar (74-70), Jeev Milkha Singh (72-72), Jyoti Randhawa (72-73), Arjun Atwal (74-71) and Rahil Gangjee (75- 74) missed the cut.

Chawrasia at 9-under and Aiken at 7-under may seem to have separated themselves slightly from the rest, but no less than 43 players are between 5-under and even par.

Tournament drawcards -- Justin Rose (68-69) and Sergio Garcia (69-71) -- kept their fans happy by making the weekend and are T-15th and T-38th.

American Julian Suri, who is of Indian origin and has been one the rising stars of 2017, added 67 to his first 68 and was Tied-3rd alongside Thailand's Poom Saksansin (67-68), Alexander Bjork (69-66) and Joakim Lagergren (69-66) at 5- under 135.

The Race to Dubai winner, Tommy Fleetwood (68-68) was Tied-7th among a bunch of eight players.

Chawrasia is currently in fourth place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit and a win here could put him in contention to follow in the footsteps of Anirban Lahiri (2015), Jeev Milkha Singh (2006 & 2008), Arjun Atwal (2003) and Jyoti Randhawa (2002) as Indians who have won the Asian Tour Merit honours

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