Indian golfer Gaganjeet Bhullar hangs onto lead at Macau Open
Indian Olympic hopeful's three-under-par 68 is enough to keep lead for the second straight day
His uncle represented India at three Olympics in the high jump. Gaganjeet Bhullar has hopes of carrying on the family tradition, as he made the rest of the field at the Venetian Macau Open jump through hoops by finishing in the outright lead for the second successive day.
Bhullar, 24, carded a three-under-par 68 which, while not as impressive as his opening round of 63, was more than enough to cement his position at the top of the leaderboard and carry a two-shot lead into the weekend's last two rounds.
"It was not as good as yesterday but still it's not a bad score," said Bhullar, who totalled an 11-under 131. "There is still a lot of golf left, 36 holes to go, but I'm feeling good having to play in the leading group."
Six years ago, when still an amateur, Bhullar represented India at the Pusan Asian Games, where he won a silver medal in the team event. He has been hooked on playing for his country ever since and is now looking forward to the return of golf at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
"Winning an Olympic medal is the pinnacle for an athlete. My dad's elder brother, Ajit Bhullar, represented India at three Olympics and four Asian Games, where he won three gold medals.
"It will be lovely if I can represent my country in 2016. My family has high hopes for me and I will be working hard to achieve the goal of representing India."
Bhullar is one of India's most promising players from the young brigade and has been enjoying a good run of form recently. In his last five starts on the Asian Tour, he has won one tournament, finished second and had one more top-10 finish.
This has put him in sixth place in the Order of Merit, a position he believes will earn him a spot in the lucrative HSBC Champions in Shenzhen next month. Only the top eight on the Asian money list will qualify.
"This tournament is the cut-off for the HSBC Champions. As of now I'm looking good," said the easy-going Bhullar.
He was looking good, especially on the green as he putted well and could have collected a couple more birdies if not for lipping out.
Those couple of near misses would have been greeted with a sigh of relief from the chasing pack, led by Thai duo Prom Meesawat and Thitiphun Chuayprakong, who were both two shots adrift on nine-under 133.
"Two shots is not far back," said the burly Prom. "On this course anything can happen. If you miss one shot you will find yourself in trouble."
Meesawat, one place behind Bhullar in the Order of Merit, struggled at the outset with his driver but salvaged his round with two chip-ins for birdies on the 11th and 18th holes.
Nicknamed the Big Dolphin - his penchant for swimming - Prom will need to get his driving sonar back on track if he hopes to challenge Bhullar.
One more shot behind was a group of five including Australian Kieran Pratt, Bangladeshi Siddikur, Angelo Que of the Philippines, Thai Thongchai Jaidee and Brazilian Adilson da Silva, who were all on eight-under 134.
Ian Woosnam, 54, made light of the strenuous course and won his battle to make the cut with an aggregate score of two-under 140.
He began this tournament with few expectations, saying his main goal was to make the cut. He has done that, but like two time-champion Zhang Lianwei of China - who also survived to play the weekend - is nine shots behind Bhullar and will need an exceptional round to get into contention.