It’s not exactly the last saloon for Veer Ahlawat, but the Indian certainly picked an opportune moment to shoot the lowest round of the day and jump up the leaderboard at the Hong Kong Open.
The 27-year-old DLF Golf & Country Club member shot a bogey-free seven-under-par 63 at the Hong Kong Golf Club on Saturday and moved into a tie for 13th place with a 10-under-par total in the Asian Tour International Series event.
Ahlawat’s effort came in tougher conditions this morning as players battled intermittent drizzle and gusts of wind on an overcast day.
The round was important for the Indians as he is ranked 79th in the Order of Merit and needs to be inside the top 60 before the end of the season to secure his playing privilege on the Asian Tour for next year. A top five finish tomorrow (Sunday) in the $2 million tournament would go a long way to easing the pressure on him.
“I think I really needed this round today. I was playing well, but I couldn’t score well,” said the long-serving Ahlawat.
“I’m trying really hard not to think about my card at this point. And yet, it’s still there in the back of my mind. It is impossible not to think about it. But like I did today, I’m going out and trying to shoot my lowest possible round. If I can do that tomorrow, I’ll be in a good place.”
Ahlawat started the day in great fashion when he hit an excellent second shot with a six iron to 4 feet on the first hole, one of the toughest of the composite course. After that, he kept the pedal to the metal.
“I hit the ball very well. I started sticking my six iron to four or five feet on one, which is a difficult hole. I made a good putt for birdie and got off to a good start. After that, I hit almost all the shots I wanted to hit and those that I didn’t get close, I made the putts.
“I think, especially today, my batting really stood out. The conditions were not easy when I was playing, light rain and a bit of gusting wind. I feel like if my hitting stays like this, it shouldn’t be a problem.”
Australia’s Cameron Smith, the 150th Open champion and the highest-ranked player in the field, shot 65 to jointly lead the tournament along with Thai Phachara Khongwatmei (66) at 15-under total.
Among the other Indians who made the cut, Gaganjeet Bhullar (68) was tied for 22nd at 9 under, while Karandeep Kochhar (69) was tied for 27th a shot behind. Two late bogeys by Ajeetesh Sandhu dropped him tied for 36th at 7-under par and Rashid Khan (70) was joint 55th.
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