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Golf: Akshay Sharma wins TATA Steel PGTI Players Championship

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Panchkula,  7 November: Chandigarh’sAkshaySharma  carded five-under 67 last round  to win the  TATA Steel PGTI Players Championship  by five-shot at  Panchkula Golf Club here on Saturday.

The 30-year-old Akshay captured his second title in style by taking his tournament tally to 24-under-264 which also equaled the record for the lowest winning total on the PGTI previously jointly held by Anirban Lahiri and Rashid Khan.

It was a wire-to-wire win for Sharma who led from the first round till the end at the Rs. 30 lakh event, the first tournament to be staged on the PGTI in eight months.

Karandeep Kochhar, (Chandigarh,) fired an error-free 67 to maintain his overnight second position. His totaled 19-under-269 for the week.

Pune-based Udayan Mane shot the day’s joint best round of 66 to claim tied third place at 14-under-274 along with Bengaluru’s Chikkarangappa (69). Udayan thus extended his lead in the PGTI Order of Merit and is set to move up in the world rankings from his current 290th position.

Yuvraj Sandhu, another Chandigarh golfer, finished fifth at 11-under-277 after he carded a last round of 67.

Akshay , the overnight leader by a massive five shots, who looked extremely relaxed and confident at the start of the final round, never seemed in trouble during the round as his lead was not under threat at any stage with the rest of the field struggling to catch up.

He got off to a terrific start with an eagle on the third where he holed his second shot from 75 yards. A bogey followed for him on the next hole but he quickly negated that with birdies on the fifth and sixth where he landed his shots inside two feet of the flag.

The winner , leading by five at the turn, was unrelenting on the back-nine too as he picked up three more birdies till the 16th including one on the par-4 11th where he drove the green. He finally bogeyed the last hole and missed out on setting a new record for the lowest winning total on the PGTI. Interestingly, he  dropped just two bogeys and one double-bogey during the week.  

 Akshay’s  tournament tally of 24-under-264 equaled Anirban Lahiri and Rashid Khan’s previous records for the lowest winning total on the PGTI. While Lahiri had posted the score at the PGTI Players Championship in Aamby Valley in 2010, Khan matched it at the City Bank American Express Chittagong Open in 2019. 

Udayan Mane’s 26-under-262 at the TATA Steel Tour Championship in 2019 was achieved with the ‘Preferred Lie’ rule being in force, so it will not be counted as a record.

Akshay, who won his first professional trophy at the QA InfoTech Open in Noida in 2018, took home the winner’s cheque worth Rs. 4,84,950 on Saturday and as a result climbed from 29th to fourth place in the PGTI Order of Merit.

 “The 64 in the first round at Panchkula really set it up for me. It was a bonus since I didn’t expect to go that low. I now head to my home course Chandigarh for the next event with loads of confidence knowing that I’ll again be playing at the two courses where I’ve done well this week.” he said 

Karandeep Kochhar (68-65-69-67), who trailed the leader by five at the start of the day, produced five birdies on the last day but was unable to catch up with the lead. He moved up from 23rd to seventh place on the PGTI Order of Merit after his runner-up finish in Panchkula.

Gurugram’s Veer Ahlawat fired the day’s joint best 66 to secure tied sixth place at 10-under-278 along with Kolkata’s Viraj Madappa (71).

Chandigarh’s Amrit Lal (68) was eighth at nine-under-279 while Patna’s Aman Raj (67) was a further shot back in ninth.

Delhi’s Rashid Khan (74) finished tied 25th place at one-under-287.

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Rashid Khan fires superb final round of 66, bags second title of the season

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Rashid Khan

Chandigarh: Delhi’s Rashid Khan  fired awesome  final round of six-under-66 to register a two-shot victory at 13-under-275 in the  TATA Steel PGTI Players Championship here on Friday.

Rashid,  who largely went unnoticed on the first three days of the Rs. 30 lakh event, knocked out all his closest rivals with a gallant  showing in the last round.

The 28-year-old Rashid (70-68-71-66), a two-time Asian Tour winner, earned a just reward for firing the last day’s best score as he lifted his 12th professional trophy which was also his 10th on the PGTI.

His  second title of the season pushed him up from second place to first position in the 2019 TATA Steel PGTI Order of Merit as his season’s earnings now read Rs. 25,68,453. Rashid overtook previous money list leader Chikkarangappa of Bengaluru.

Noida’s Gaurav Pratap Singh (69-67-71-70) and round three leader Shankar Das (68-68-68-73) of Kolkata, who were both in contention till the final stages at the Chandigarh Golf Club (CGC), claimed joint second position at 11-under-277.

The highest-placed golfers from the host city of Chandigarh were the trio of Aadil Bedi (67), Karandeep Kochhar (68) and Harendra Gupta (69) as they all ended up in tied eighth with matching totals of seven-under-281.

Rashid Khan, lying overnight tied fifth and five off the lead, turned the tables with a top-notch performance on Friday to continue his hot streak which began late last year. Rashid, who took home the winner’s cheque worth Rs. 4,84,950, has now recorded three wins in the last six months on the PGTI.

The winner , who had struggled to hole putts all week, had a quiet start to round four as he was one-under over the front-nine today having sunk two birdies at the cost of a bogey.

But  his fortunes were suddenly on the upswing when he birdied the 10th and 11th. He played a fantastic second shot to recover from the trees on the 10th that left him an eight feet birdie putt which he converted. A 25-feet birdie conversion on the next hole added to the confidence of the 2013 and 2016 PGTI Order of Merit champion.

His  consistent ball-striking set up three more up and down birdies for him on the 13th, 16th and 17th that helped him snatch the lead and finally the title from Gaurav Pratap Singh in what can be termed as a memorable come-from-behind victory.

Rashid said, “It’s great to win my second trophy this year. I’ve gone through some tough times over the last two years but I’m glad that my game is peaking once again.

“I was hitting it well through the week but was just not able to make the putts. But the turnaround happened on the 10th hole today where I recovered from a tricky position and then converted an eight-footer for birdie. I made an important minor adjustment in my putting stroke on that hole. That proved to be the game-changer for me as I sank all the putts thereafter.

“I knew three to four birdies on the last six holes would probably take me into a playoff with Gaurav. Once I made a brilliant par-save on the 15th, I told myself to just focus on hitting fairways to give myself a chance. I then grabbed my opportunities on the 16th and 17th. If one has to win, one has to always convert those half chances and that’s what I did successfully.”

Gaurav Pratap Singh, lying overnight tied third and three off the lead, emerged as leader on day four and a favourite for the title when he traded four birdies for a bogey over the first 11 holes.

After conceding the lead to Rashid, Gaurav once again drew level with him thanks to his birdie on the 17th. But a couple of erratic shots on the 18th resulted in a double-bogey for Singh and dashed his title hopes.

Shankar Das had an off day with a 73 after his three rounds of 68. He thus finished tied second with Gaurav Pratap Singh. Greater Noida’s Sudhir Sharma (73), who set the new course record of 64 earlier in the tournament, secured fourth place at 10-under-278.

Veteran Jyoti Randhawa  finished  tied 40th at one-over-289.

Golf : Shankar Das fires third straight 68 to emerge third round leader

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Chandigarh: Seasoned campaigner Shankar Das of Kolkata fired third straight four-under-68 to take a one-shot lead at 12-under-204 ahead of the final round of TATA Steel PGTI Players Championship here on Thursday.

Greater Noida’s Sudhir Sharma, who was overnight tied fourth along with Shankar after setting a new course record on Wednesday, also moved up two spots in the penultimate round. Sudhir’s 69 on Thursday placed him second at 11-under-205.

Bengaluru’s Trishul Chinnappa, the halfway leader, slipped to tied third as a result of his third round of 73. Chinnappa shared third place with Noida’s Gaurav Pratap Singh (71) at nine-under-207.

Panchkula’s Angad Cheema was the highest placed among the Tricity golfers. Cheema (68) closed the day in tied 12th at five-under-211.

The conditions during round three were unforgiving as it was the windiest day of the tournament and the breeze kept switching directions. The tough scoring conditions meant that only 17 players out of a total of 57 could break par on day three.

Shankar Das (68-68-68), a seven-time winner on the PGTI, negotiated the conditions well to shoot the day’s joint best score and keep his card bogey-free. Das struggled to find greens in regulation but more than made up for that with his fine chipping and putting.

He made a couple of chip-putt birdies on the second and 16th and landed his wedge shots within six feet for birdies on the sixth and 18th. The man with three top-10s this year will now be looking for his first win since September 2017.

Shankar said, “If I can drive and putt well in the final round I will have a really good chance of winning. I think a fourth straight round of 68 might just be good enough for me.

“I’ve already posted three top-10s this season so the form is good and the momentum is slowly building up for me. I think it’s just a matter of time before I can get my next win,” added Das.

Sudhir Sharma (72-64-69) began the day splendidly as he landed his approach within a foot on the first hole to set up a tap-in birdie. Sudhir picked up five more birdies at the cost of a bogey till the 17th to enjoy a two-shot cushion over Shankar Das.

However, it all changed when Sharma found the water with his approach on the 18th and thereby conceded a double-bogey at the end. There was a three-shot swing in favour of Shankar who snatched the lead from Sudhir after making a birdie on the last hole.

Round two leader Trishul Chinnappa got off to a promising start with two birdies on the first four holes but he soon slipped with two bogeys and a double-bogey between the eighth and the 11th. He managed to pull one shot back on the 16th.

Patna’s Aman Raj and Bangladesh’s Md Dulal Hossain, who were both overnight tied second, shot identical scores of 74 in round three and thus dropped to tied fifth at seven-under-209. The three others in tied fifth were Delhi golfers Kapil Kumar (68) and Rashid Khan (71) and Bengaluru’s C Muniyappa (71).

Jyoti Randhawa was in tied 29th at one-under-215.

Trishul Chinnappa holds on to the lead; Sudhir Sharma’s super 64 eclipses course record

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Trishul Chinnappa

Sudhir Sharma

Chandigarh: Bengaluru’s Trishul Chinnappa held on to the lead for the second day in succession, it was Greater Noida-based golfer Sudhir Sharma’s exquisite eight-under-64 that hogged the limelight in round two of the TATA Steel PGTI Players Championship here on Wednesday.

Trishul Chinnappa’s three-under-69 gave him a one-shot lead at 10-under-134 at the halfway stage of the Rs. 30 lakh event.

The second position was shared by Patna’s Aman Raj (68) and Bangladesh’s Md Dulal Hossain (68) at nine-under-135.

The 31-year-old Sudhir’s magnificent effort eclipsed the long-standing course record at the Chandigarh Golf Club (CGC) and saw him return to form after a long gap. On day two, Sharma climbed 44 positions to tied fourth at eight-under-136.

The previous course record of 65 was broken after 13 long years as it was first set by legend Mukesh Kumar in 2006. Thereafter, it was matched by the likes of Gaganjeet Bhullar, Gaurav Ghei, Ranjit Singh, Shiv Kapur and Trishul Chinnappa. Chinnappa had equaled it on Tuesday during the first round of the ongoing event.

The cut came down at even-par-144 with 57 professionals progressing to the last two rounds.

Sudhir Sharma (72-64), lying tied 48th and seven off the lead after round one, began the second day with a birdie on the first which was soon neutralized by his bogey on the third.

A whirlwind back-nine saw Sharma, a joint runner-up at the Asian Tour’s Panasonic Open India 2017, gain six more shots. Some fabulous approach shots on the 10th, 12th and 13th left him birdie putts within six feet of the flag, all of which he converted.

He ended the round in style with birdies on the last three holes to etch his name in the record books at the CGC.

Sudhir said, “It’s great to have the new course record in my name. This encourages me to keep up the intensity over the next two days. The key from here on will be to continue hitting it well off the tee and seizing the opportunities on the greens with some solid putting,”

Aman Raj (67-68) and Md Dulal Hossain (67-68) clung on to their overnight tied second place with matching rounds of 68. Aman mixed five birdies with a bogey and narrowly missed his eagle putt on the 13th.

Dulal made an eagle, four birdies and two bogeys. His round featured two chip-ins, one for eagle on the 13th and the other for birdie on the 18th.

Noida’s Gaurav Pratap Singh (67) and Kolkata’s Shankar Das (68) were both in tied fourth along with Sudhir Sharma at eight-under-136.

Mumbai’s Anil Bajrang Mane slipped from overnight tied second to tied 10th at five-under-139 as a result of his 72 on Wednesday.

The trio of Yuvraj Singh Sandhu, Harendra Gupta and Aadil Bedi, were the best-placed among the Chandigarh golfers as they occupied tied 12that four-under-140. Jyoti Randhawa (71) was a further shot back in tied 19th.

Local amateur Sanju Kumar made a hole-in-one on the 14th during his round of 74. However, he missed the cut since he totaled six-over-150.

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