Future Masters: Sandhu holds onto to 11-12 lead going to final day

Sihan Sandhu said he “managed” a round of 1-under-par 69 Monday in the second round of the 11-12 age division of the Press Thornton Future Masters.

He also managed to keep the lead. Sandu of Ashburn, Va., who opened the tournament with a brilliant 64 on Sunday, holds a one-shot lead over Abhay Gupta going into today’s final round.

Not that Sandhu was celebrating. He said he was “sloppy” on his front side – the back nine at Dothan Country Club – but concluded: “It could have been much worse.”

“I managed the round really, really well,” Sandhu said. “Nothing went in. I didn’t strike the ball well. The front nine I lipped out from four feet on 18. On No. 1 I lipped out a three-footer for par.”

At that point he was 2-over for his round and he said he needed something to happen.

A four-foot birdie putt on the par-3 No. 3 and another birdie on the par-5 No. 4 pumped a little momentum into his round and his play was more solid coming in. He made a four-footer for par on No. 6 and drained a birdie putt of the same length on No. 8.

Sandhu said his game was a little rusty coming into this week.

“I was coming off a 10-day vacation,” he explained. “But the final practice round down here I learned how to hit the ball again.”

Gupta of Concord, N.C., shot his second straight 3-under-par 67 to keep the pressure on Sandhu. Gupta said Monday’s round was more of a struggle.

“Today I didn’t hit any good shots close to the hole, I just a made a few putts,” Gupta said, explaining the difference from the first round. “It feels good doing that because I wasn’t playing very well at the start.”

His first birdie came at No. 4 and he chipped in for birdie on No. 6. Then he went bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie.

“I’ve been playing pretty well coming in,” Gupta said. “I played a few qualifiers last week and played well in those.”

Jay Brooks of Boca Raton, Fla., shot a 3-under 67 – tied with Gupta for lowest round of the day – and is just three shots behind Sandhu at 4-under 136.

“Pretty good day,” Brooks concluded.

Starting on the front side, Brooks drove the 320-yard par-4 first hole. Again. This time, he two-putted for birdie. Then after driving into the woods on the right on No. 2, he saved par with a dramatic 20-foot putt.

“That just jump-started my round completely,” Brooks said. “One stroke in one of these big tournaments can be really big.”

Still, he needed birdies on No. 8 and No. 9 to turn in under par. He had another nice save – a 10-footer for par on No. 12 after driving into the trees – on the back. Two more birdies – on 14 and 15 – went with seven pars for a solid 67.

“I gave myself good chances off the tee,” Brooks said. “I hit a 60-degree wedge on every hole coming in. I had a 12-footer on 14 and a 20-footer on 15. I missed a six-footer for birdie on 16.”

Brooks said he came into the tournament playing well, but he knew he wasn’t alone.

“This is a really important event. It’s one of the biggest tournaments of the year,” Brooks said. “Everyone wants to win, so everyone’s playing their best.”

Allan Kournikova of Palm Beach, Fla., is next at 2-under 138 after a 68 Monday he said could have been much better.

“I hit 16 out of 18 greens today,” Kournikova said. “Ball-striking was some of the best shots I’ve had. I don’t think I had a putt outside of 15, 20 feet. (Putting) just killed me today. I burned more edges than I ever had.

“I’m definitely confident going into tomorrow hitting the ball like that. If I find the putter, as weird as it sounds, seven or eight under is not crazy anymore.”

Cut line: David (Dazhou) Wu of Winter Garden, Fla., was animated when he got through with his round.

He eagerly wanted to know where the cut for the 11-12 age group was going to fall. He knew he was going to be close after opening with rounds of 77-78 for a 155 total.

“If I made it, this is my first time here, so it would be a very big accomplishment,” Wu said. “If I don’t, my father will be very mad and my whole family will be, ‘Oh, no, you missed it.’”

Since he was playing in the final group, he didn’t have to wait long. Turns out, both he and playing partner Vinay Yerramsetti of Vestavia made the cut, which fell at 16-over 156.

Yerramsetti and Kal Myers of St. Louis are both at 156. Myers birdied two par-3 holes – No. 13 and the very difficult No. 3 – to make the cut to the low 40 and ties from the field of 76.

Nice stretch: Mason Crowder of Dothan bounced back impressively Monday. He birdied three consecutive holes (11, 12 and 13) on his way to a 2-over 72 – an eight-shot improvement on Sunday’s opening round.

“I played much better today,” Crowder said. “I was just putting better. That was my weakness yesterday. I made a 25-footer on 11, a 10-footer on 12 and another 25-footer on 13. Then I made double (bogey) the next hole.”

Crowder also birdied No. 8. His two-round 152 today has him tied for 29th place going into today’s final round.

Fighting back: Max Fonseca of Miami had a remarkable turnaround on Monday. He started the tournament with an 82, but answered that with a 72 and made the cut by two strokes.

“Yesterday I played so bad,” Fonseca said, saying holes 3 through 7 crushed his round. “I had a quadruple bogey on 3. I blew up the round – it went quad, bogey, double bogey, bogey, bogey. I tried to keep my attitude together, but that was tough.”

He said the difference Monday was he stayed away from the big number.

Righting the ship: Hampton Roberts of Cary, N.C., shook off a tough stretch of holes that pushed him uncomfortably close to the cut line. Roberts started on the back nine and shot a 36, opening with a bogey on No. 10 and posting eight straight pars.

But at the turn, Roberts started the front side bogey-double bogey-double bogey. He settled himself down with a birdie on the par-5 No. 4 without ever hitting the fairway. He missed right off the tee, hooked his second shot wide left, but made a fine approach to the green and drained the birdie putt. He parred in from there and sits at 151 after two rounds.

Source: dothaneagle.com