Sharmila grabs sole lead

Sharmila grabs sole lead

Smriti puts on brilliant show to move within two shots of leader

Having the conceded the spotlight to young amateur Aditi Ashok and the bubbly Neha Tripathi in the opening leg last week, Sharmila bounced back into title contention in superb style, improving upon her first-round three-under 69 with a brilliant 68 at the Eagleton Golf Resort.

Despite being bogged down by pain and swelling on her right knee, Smriti was in her elements to carded a 68 to move to within two shots of Sharmila at 139, while the calm and composed Nalini Singh Siwach carded a 71 to remain third at 141.

“I am hitting the ball really well,” said the 20-year-old Sharmila. “My approach shots were good and I was getting on to the greens without much of a problem. I struggled a bit with my putting but there has been a good improvement. I am geared on defending my title and the idea will be go all out tomorrow.”

Big hitters generally thrive at Eagleton, thanks to its wider fairways and lesser hazards that allow them to get on to the greens without having to worry much about direction. It was no surprise to see Sharmila and Smriti step on the accelerator, making the best use of their hitting prowess.

Clearly appearing low on confidence on the greens despite reeling off some long putts, Smriti was brilliant with her driving and approach shots. Following a bogey on the par-3 fifth, the 5’11 lass quickly bounced back with an eight-foot birdie on the sixth before picking up a stroke on the seventh with a successful 10-foot attempt. Sharmila, who along with playing partner Neha completed her round in a rapid three hours and 25 minutes, was solid on the back nine too.

Although she missed a regulation two-foot birdie chance on the 15th, the youngster didn’t allow nerves to get the better of her, holing out a seven-footer for a birdie on the 16th before reeling off a stunning 25-foot downhill putt for a birdie on the 17th.

Smriti, meanwhile, played out a flawless round containing four birdies to signal her title intentions in what should be an exciting battle on the final day.

Leading scores (36 holes, ‘A’ denoted amateur): 137: Sharmila Nicollet (69, 68); 139: Smriti Mehra (68, 71); 141: Nalini Singh Siwach (70, 71); 143: Neha Tripathi (69, 74), Saaniya Sharma (73, 70); 145: Aditi Ashok (A) (71, 74); 153: Meghna Bal (75, 78); 157: Ankita Tiwana (79, 78); 160: Nalini Singh (79, 81); 161: Pallavi Jain (81, 80).

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