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Golf: Indian-American Bhatia leads in Texas, needs to win to qualify for Masters

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Golf: Indian-American Bhatia leads in Texas, needs to win to qualify for Masters

San Antonio, April 6 (Ajit Weekly News) Indian-American Akshay Bhatia is just 36 holes away from a maiden start at the Masters next week. The 22-year-old Bhatia, however, needs to stay on top and win the Valero Texas Open, where he leads a strong field by as much as five shots with two rounds to go.

Augusta National is holding one spot for the winner of the Valero Texas Open.

After a stunning 63 on the first day, he added 2-under 70 with a pair of late birdies for a 2-under 70 that stretched his lead to five shots. He had started with a three-shot lead and opened at the tenth with a 15-foot birdie putt, perhaps a sign that this might be another easy day. However, he bogeyed the 11th from the bunker on the next hole and then three-putted for bogey on 15.

He also failed to birdie the par 5s on the back nine, his first nine for the day. He also lost the lead.

But the 22-year-old settled with birdies on the par 5s on the front nine, at the second and the eighth, and in between had a birdie on the par-3 eighth. The wind kept whipping and the players kept dropping shots and Bhatia went into the lead and kept expanding it.

Bhatia was at 11-under 133. Denny McCarthy, who played in the afternoon, got within four shots of him until a bogey from the fairway on the par-5 18th for a 70. That dropped him to 6-under 138, along with Brendon Todd (72) and Russell Henley (69).

Rory McIlroy had another steady day of pars and did well enough for a 70 to stay in the mix at 139.

McIlroy, in his final event before he tries again to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National, has made three birdies in each of the opening two rounds.

Bhatia won the Barracuda Championship last summer, but it was played as an Additional Event the same week as The Open Championship and it did not get him into the Masters.

Tommy Fleetwood (69), Webb Simpson (67) and Monday qualifier Peter Kuest (71) were among those at 140. Of the top nine players, only Bhatia, Todd, Simpson and Kuest are not already in the field for the Masters.

The cut saw 82 players make it at 1-over 145.

Rico Hoey of the Philippines is T-18 at 71-71, while Hideki Matsuyama (73-70) is T-34 as is CT Pan (71-72).

–Ajit Weekly News

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