He may have come through the ranks, but after spending close to seven years on the professional circuit, Ashok Kumar is well versed with American fashion guru Alan Flusser's mantra: "Learning how to dress well is not as difficult as it may seem. Like golf, it is an acquired skill that can be honed and improved with correct practice."
Though he went at length to play down his penchant for bright colours, the talkative player descended at the Golden Greens Golf and Country Club in a fluorescent pink tee and matching patterned trousers. Looking good and feeling great, Ashok's game too picked up on Wednesday and from overnight tied 14th, the genial Delhiite returned a card of three-under to be joint sixth with defending champion Rahul Ganapathy at four-under 140. If the form holds on Thursday, the final day of the Solaris Chemtech Open will witness Ashok, on way to regaining fluency after surgery, in his favourite combination of red and black.
Like Ashok, M. Dharma too was not short on inspiration and it came from looking within. True to the persona, Dharma's strategy was without frills. Tied overnight for the lead with Arjun Singh, the humble Bangalorean's faith in his ability to deliver yet again bore fruit. The three-under not only gave him sole possession of the lead, the overall eight-under 136 is his best two-day score since turning pro in 2005.
The 22-year-old was off to a scorching start, picking up birdies on the 10th and 11th and ensured the trend continued on the back nine as well. "I played well throughout and proof lay in the 14 good holes. Of the bad ones, two (5th and 6th) were due to poor drives and other two (12th and 3rd) were a result of wrong club selection (caused by the wind)," he explained.
Arjun Singh's fear of slipping came true somewhat though a two-under ensured a place alongside Gaurav Pratap Singh, the day's surprise package. Overnight even par at joint 28th, it was a meteoric rise for the 24-year-old, who till a year back practiced here on weekends. Drawing from the familiarity, the greenhorn returned the day's lowest card to be tied second with seven-under 137.
Gaurav's focus was on keeping the ball in play and the returns were rich --- eight birdies against the lone blemish. "The wind was a factor but I was striking so well that it got negated," he said while going through the list of 50 who will resume battle on the morrow after the cut was applied at four-over.
Leaderboard: 136: M. Dharma (67, 69); 137: Gaurav Pratap Singh (72, 65); Arjun Singh (67, 70); 138: Anirban Lahiri (70, 68); Mukesh Kumar (68, 70); 140: Ashok Kumar (71, 69), Rahul Ganapathy (68, 72)