V Krishnaswamy @Swinging_Swamy

Gaurika Bishnoi played an electric second nine on the front side of the DLF Golf & Country Club to get into a four-way lead at the midway stage of the Hero Women’s Indian Open 2022 after posting a second round score of 68 (-4)

Bishnoi, 25, who has never missed the cut in four previous starts at the her home event, joined fellow Indian Amandeep Drall (67-72), Finland’s Noora Komulainen (67-72) and Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall (68-71) at five-under to sit at the top of the leader board, with  another Swede Elin Arvidsson (68-72) in standalone fifth at five-under.

On a day when when scoring was at a premium, Gaurika brought home the best card of the round at four-under, with only a dozen players shooting in red numbers on the testing course, with five birdies in her final eight holes turning her fortunes around as we head into the weekend. 

“I didn’t have the best of starts today. I was two-over through two holes but I made a birdie on my fourth hole so the momentum came back. There was another good birdie on the 16th and I was one under through the front nine,” Bishnoi said.

“I definitely set up a lot more birdie opportunities today as compared to yesterday. I wouldn’t say I converted all of them. I did hit some of them close, some were longish. So it was like a mix of birdies.

“I think it’s definitely a mix of everything because you cannot have birdies without setting up birdies, and you cannot have birdies also without holing those birdie putts. 

“So it a bit of everything that got me up the four-under today. Being the home course, some things come instinctively to you here. I’ve been playing here for 13 years. That’s why they say that there’s a home course advantage.”

The Indian player started the second day on the tenth tee on a none-too-happy note with bogeys on her first two holes, before quickly getting herself back to level-par with birdies on 13th and 16th. 

Then on her second nine, the front side of her home course, Bishnoi once again bogeyed on the first. Then she laughingly said the ‘home course advantage’ kicked in and the remaining eight holes saw her sink no less than five birdie putts. 

A lengthy 20-footer on sixth was a bonus to add to her day, with the remainder all coming from within 12 feet, which was testament to her approach play throughout the second portion of her day.

After a flawless first round where she carded a score of 67 (-5), Drall’s bogey-free run ended early this morning as she dropped a shot on the 11th after starting from the tenth. 

Back-to-back birdies on 14th and 15th ensured she turned in one-under, before her second nine was a roller coaster with two birdies and three bogeys for an even-par 72.

She said, “Today’s round was very similar to yesterday’s. Nothing good or bad. It’s just like I missed it on 2-3 wrong places where I ended up dropping a shot because it’s really tough from there. 

“And the course is such that if you miss it at the wrong spot, you end up dropping a shot. So that’s exactly what happened today.”

The 31-year-old Finn Noora Komulainen, who has never won on the LET in her ten-year-old pro career, has nevertheless played steady in India. 

She has never missed the cut in previous six starts in India and her best has been T6 in 2018. This year has been good for her in Aramco Team Series events, as she has been in the team that finished first in Sotogrande, second in New York and third in Bangkok, and she looks set to convert that into a promising week in individual competition this week.

She said, “This is one of my favourite events of the year and I’ve always played well here so I was really looking forward to this week. 

“I’m really enjoying my time here in India. Over the next two days, I guess I will just have a mindset to hit it straight and try to make birdies.”

Hedwall, who has one win and two runner-up finishes at the HWIO, said, “I think I was playing as well as I did yesterday, really. I just didn’t get off to a great start. 

“I  three-putted on one and missed on the wrong side of the green on three. But then I got going and made birdies on seven, eight and nine.

“I made a long putt on the seventh and then two-putted on eight for birdie and hit it close on nine. So it was nice to turn that to one-under.”

The Indian contingent had a fine day with 15 players, including three amateurs, making the cut to ensure weekend action.

The 2016 winner, Aditi Ashok returning to the National Open for the first time since 2017, stayed in the hunt despite missing a bunch of makeable putts. 

She shot a bogey-free 71 to get to three-under and was tied-sixth alongside England’s Meghan MacLaren (72-69), Spaniard Luna Sobron Galmes (69-72) and South African Nicole Garcia (69-72).

Aditi said, “I missed a lot of putts, but the good part was that I played bogey-free, so the feelings are mixed.”

MacLaren, who is having a fine season with one win in Australia and two runner-up finishes in Italy and France, had the best round of the morning at three-under after five birdies and two bogeys. 

The English star rose to T6 by the end of the day and looks to add another good finish at the HWIO to go alongside her third-place finish in 2019 and T-9 in 2017 at the same event.

In total, 64 players made it into the weekend’s action, with the cut mark coming at +8.

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