Gaganjeet Bhullar was left frustrated after a second-round 70, but the 25-year-old Indian still moved to seven-under-par as he continues to shine on his tournament debut at the US$2.5 million Commercial Bank Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club.
Shiv Kapur, 31, also endured an up-and-down day with a 71 that moved him to five-under and a share of 28th place with the likes of World No. 3 Henrik Stenson and two-time major winner Jose Maria Olazabal, who played the first two rounds with Bhullar.
Thai star Thongchai Jaidee, a five-time winner on The European Tour, took a backwards step with a one-over-par 73 as he struggled on the greens in the late afternoon and sits at three-under in a share of 45th place, level with stars Jason Dufner and Luke Donald.
India’s Jeev Milkha Singh, who won the last of his four European Tour titles in 2012, signed for a second successive 71 to lie two-under.
Young Qatari amateurs Saleh Al Kaabi and Ali Al Bishi swapped their form from the opening round, as neither were able to make the cut at the tournament for the first time. Al Kaabi, 19, carded four birdies in his second-round 70 following an opening 78, while Al Bishi, also 19, struggled to an 84 after starting with an encouraging 73 on Wednesday.
Bhullar remains the leading Asian in the field, having opened with an excellent 65, but cut a slightly disconsolate figure despite again proving that he belongs with The European Tour’s finest, outscoring playing partners Olazabal and Englishman James Morrison.
“I’m not that happy. I didn’t hit the ball that good today. I did a lot of scrambling for par, good par saves, but my putting was a little off. There are still two more days ago and it’s looking like it’s going to be fun at the weekend,” said Bhullar, who won his fifth Asian Tour title last month.
Bhullar will compete for Team Asia against Graeme McDowell and his Team Europe colleagues in the inaugural EurAsia Cup in March, yet the Indian is now fully committed to his first full season on The European Tour.
The big-hitting six-footer showed his enormous potential by finishing 10th in Abu Dhabi last week, despite a closing 75, and is now ready to show fans in Doha what he’s capable of.
“To be honest, I’m really not looking at the leaderboard as of now, as there are so many guys in between the leader and me,” he said. “Golf is totally different from other sports, so I’m just going to go out there, enjoy my rounds, give my 100 per cent and let’s see what happens.”
Kapur is a familiar face at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, having spent seven seasons on The European Tour before losing his card and regaining it on last year’s Challenge Tour.
However, like his younger compatriot, Kapur felt a sense of frustration after failing to match his opening 68. After opening with eight straight pars, the Indian bogeyed the par-five ninth, responded with birdies at 13, 16 and 17, but three-putted 18 for another bogey on a par-five.
“I was a little out of rhythm and I could get anything going. I made a bunch of pars to start with and then bogeyed the ninth at the turn. I fought back well to make three birdies coming in, but it leaves a bad taste in your mouth when you three putt the last green,” Kapur said.
“I didn’t have my A game today, so I was hanging in there, trying to grind out a score. Conditions were there for the taking and if you hit good shots, there were a lot of birdies to be had.
“It wasn’t the best, but I’m still five-under, so if I can iron out a couple of things, then I’ll be in good shape for the weekend. I actually hope the conditions get tough at the weekend, so I can shoot a low score and see what happens.”
The 2014 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters runs from Wednesday 22 January to Saturday 25 January. Evening entertainment begins from 6pm on Thursday and Friday. Both single-day (Thursday/Friday) and season tickets include entry to the concerts, which include American performers Divas of Soul on Thursday and Scottish band Texas on Friday.
Season tickets provide exceptional value, offering access to all four days of golf action, the public village and all evening entertainment for just QAR325, more than 40% less than four single-day tickets.
Single-day and season tickets for the2014 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters are available to purchase online at www.virginmegastore.me and in-store from Virgin Megastore shops in Villagio Mall and Landmark Mall, Doha, as well as Doha Golf Club.
Wednesday 22 January 2014: QAR100
Thursday 23 January 2014: QAR150 (includes evening entertainment – Divas of Soul)
Friday 24 January 2014: QAR150 (includes evening entertainment – Texas)
Saturday 25 January 2014: QAR150
Season Ticket: QAR325 (includes 22 January - 25 January event entry and all evening entertainment)
Entry is free for children under 15 years of age. For those looking for an extra-special experience, a range of popular corporate hospitality packages are available. For more information visit the tournament’s official website, www.qatar-masters.com.
United Through Golf website:www.unitedthroughgolf.com