Hyderabad, February 19: Chandigarh’s Ajeetesh Sandhu continued his love affair with Hyderabad as he won the Rs. 40-lakh Golconda Masters for the second year running at the picturesque Hyderabad Golf Club (HGC) on Sunday.
Sandhu (70-67-73-63), lying a lowly 17th, five shots off the lead, after the penultimate round fired a dazzling eight-under-63 to take his total to 11-under-273 and as a result earn his place in the playoff against Bengaluru’s Khalin Joshi (65-70-70-68) in the second event of the 2017 PGTI season. Joshi, the overnight joint leader, posted a three-under-68 in the final round.
Ajeetesh finally sealed his third professional title with an eight feet birdie conversion on the first playoff hole (played on the 18th) even as Khalin bogeyed after finding the bunker with his tee shot.
Ajeetesh took home the winner’s cheque worth Rs. 6 lakh to emerge as the early leader on PGTI Order of Merit.
Sandhu didn’t have the best start to the day as he struggled on the first three holes. He found the water on the third where he dropped a bogey. The turnaround for the 28-year-old began from the fourth where he drained a 25-footer for birdie. From there on, he went on to add an eagle and six more birdies to match the tournament’s best single-round score achieved earlier in the week by Pune’s Sameer M Shaikh.
Sandhu, who has a conditional card on the Japan Golf Tour, scored heavily on the par-5s. He eagled the eighth from 20 feet and sank birdies on the sixth, 10th and 17th to be five-under for the day on the par-5s. A magnificent tee shot set up a tap-in birdie for him on the seventh.
The wiry Chandigarh lad also drove the green on the 15th and rolled in a 25-footer on the 16th that contributed towards his hat-trick of birdies in the closing stages.
Sandhu, composed as ever, despite his sensational win, said, “I’m enjoying a terrific start to the season. This win comes after a good performance in Noida last week where I finished tied third. The HGC is turning out to be one of my favourite courses. Interestingly, I had missed the cut in the first edition. To follow that up with wins in the next two editions is quite incredible.
“The third round was my worst as far as putting is concerned. But I was in prime form with the putter today. The eagle on the eighth lifted my confidence. It took me to four-under for the day and at that stage I had this gut feeling that I was in with a chance since I also had some good memories from last year.
“I had the advantage of teeing off second in the playoff. I hit a cracking drive to the centre of the fairway even as Khalin landed in trouble. That got me going. I must thank my friend and fellow professional Naman Dawar for sharing a valuable putting tip with me last evening. It worked for me.”
Khalin Joshi was on course for his fourth win being four-under for the day through the first 10 holes thanks to a hot putter. However, a missed birdie opportunity from three feet on the 14th followed by an erratic tee shot that led to a bogey on the 15th, saw him lose his grip of the match.
Khalin said, “It was a good putting day for me, unlike the previous rounds. But the stretch on the 14th and 15th was a poor one for me. I lot some momentum there. Nonetheless, I’ve relished the playing conditions here at the HGC and look forward to coming back next year.”
Veteran Mukesh Kumar of Mhow struck a 68 in round four to clinch third place at 10-under-274. Delhi’s Shamim Khan (69) was a further shot back in fourth place.
Delhi’s Himmat Singh Rai, the overnight joint leader, slipped to tied 13th at three-under-281 after a final round of 76. Harendra Gupta (71) of Chandigarh, the 2015 champion, also took a share of 13th place.
Himmat Singh Rai & Khalin Joshi take pole position in round three
Hyderabad, February 18: Delhi’s Himmat Singh Rai and Bengaluru’s Khalin Joshi carded matching one-under-70s in round three of the Rs. 40 lakh Golconda Masters 2017 to enjoy a slender one-shot lead at eight-under-205 and set up a fascinating final day at the Hyderabad Golf Club (HGC).
Shamim Khan of Delhi and Bengalurean Mari Muthu carded the day’s best scores of six-under-65 to be joint third along with veteran Mukesh Kumar (71) of Mhow at seven-under-206.
Himmat Singh Rai (67-68-70), who was part of the five-way lead on day two, maintained his position as joint leader on Saturday after a determined 70 that was highlighted by three birdies and two bogeys.
The former Asian Tour winner had a quiet front-nine barring the 20-feet birdie conversion on the third. He dropped a shot on the 10th but regained control with birdies on the 13th and 15th thanks to some superb chipping and putting. Just when Himmat was looking good for the sole lead, his decision to use the putter from the fringe instead of the wedge backfired on the 17th resulting in his second bogey.
The 29-year-old Rai had posted two top-3s on the Asian Tour in 2015 including a runner-up finish in Thailand where he lost out in a playoff to Spanish star Sergio Garcia. The Delhi-based golfer then had an average 2016 where his best result in Asia was tied 15th.
“I was not at my best last year but I still posted a few top-20 and top-30 finishes on the Asian Tour and the PGTI. However, I feel my game is now showing signs of returning. I’m being able to pull off shots I want to.
“The par-saves have been quite heartening over the last two days. I made a terrific recovery for par after finding the water hazard on the 17th in round two. I had two good par-saves today as well including an up and down from 100 yards on the eighth. The key will be to keep this momentum going in the final round,” said Himmat.
Khalin Joshi (65-70-70) also continued in the joint lead for the second straight day. Joshi, like Rai, made three birdies and two bogeys during his third round of 70. He made pars all through on the back-nine.
Shamim Khan and Mari Muthu gained 22 places from their overnight tied 25th thanks to rounds of 65.
Mukesh Kumar, the overnight joint leader, slipped to tied third on day three after posting an even-par-71.
The other prominent names who occupied tied 12th place were former champions and Chandigarh duo Ajeetesh Sandhu (73) and Harendra Gupta (68) as well as round one leader Sameer M Shaikh (73) of Pune and PGTI Order of Merit leader Honey Baisoya (69) of Delhi.
Kunal Bhasin shines with a 66, in five-way lead with Mukesh, Chadha, Rai & Joshi
Hyderabad, February 17: Round two of the Golconda Masters 2017 witnessed a leaderboard logjam as five players shared the lead at seven-under-135. Australia’s Kunal Bhasin produced a masterclass five-under-66 to be the joint leader along with Mukesh Kumar (67) of Mhow, Chandigarh’s Abhijit Singh Chadha (67), Delhi’s Himmat Singh Rai (68) and Bengalurean Khalin Joshi (70).
Reigning champion Ajeetesh Sandhu (67) was bunched together in tied sixth at five-under-137 along with Samarth Dwivedi (68), Angad Cheema (71), round one leader Sameer M Shaikh (74), Digvijay Singh (67), M Dharma (69) and Sri Lankan Anura Rohana (67).
Kolkata-based 19-year-old rookie Viraj Madappa also made an impact at the Hyderabad Golf Club (HGC) on Friday after he returned the day’s best score of seven-under-64.
The cut was declared at two-over-144. Fifty professionals made it to the money rounds.
Kunal Bhasin (69-66), a three-time winner on the PGTI, zoomed up from his overnight tied 13th courtesy a brilliant 67 that was punctuated by six birdies and a lone bogey. Kunal earned a birdie for almost driving the green on the 15th and also chipped-in for birdie on the fourth.
The 37-year-old Mumbai resident Bhasin said, “I hadn’t played from the start of the season till August last year as I had taken a break from the game for training on and off the course. When I came back in September I suffered a back injury. So that put paid to my hopes last season.
Sameer Shaikh flies high with flawless 63, takes round one lead
Hyderabad, February 16: Pune’s Sameer Shaikh produced the best round of his professional career, a fiery bogey-free eight-under-63, to take the lead and stamp his authority on day one of the Golconda Masters 2017 being played at the Hyderabad Golf Club’s pristine par-71 course.
Bengaluru’s Khalin Joshi, a three-time winner on the PGTI, also posted an impressive six-under-65, to occupy second place at the end of round one of the Rs. 40 lakh event.
Sameer M Shaikh, the 27-year-old from the Poona Club Golf Course who turned pro back in 2012, was the man with the Midas touch at the HGC on Thursday.
Shaikh, who has never finished inside the top-60 of the PGTI Order of Merit till date, came within a shot of equaling defending champion Ajeetesh Sandhu’s course record (nine-under-62) from last year as he signed his first ever bogey-free card.
Sameer’s five birdies on the front-nine featured a chip-in from the rough on the fourth, two long conversions and a tap-in on the ninth. The Pune lad picked up three more strokes on the back-nine which included an astonishing recovery on the 15th where his tee shot had landed in trouble.
Khalin Joshi, having put behind the disappoint of missing out on his Asian Tour card for 2017, made a splendid start to the week with a six-under that featured an eagle and six birdies at the cost of two bogeys.
Panchkula’s Angad Cheema, who had a top-10 at the season-opener in Noida last week, was placed third at five-under-66. Cheema set up his eagle on the par-5 17th after an outstanding approach that stopped three feet from the flag.
Former Asian Tour winner Himmat Singh Rai of Delhi shared fourth place at 67 along with Gurgaon-based Veer Ahlawat and Chandigarh’s Feroz Singh Garewal. Garewal produced an eagle-two on the par-4 15th.
Reigning champion Ajeetesh Sandhu of Chandigarh closed the day in tied 19th with a score of 70.
Noida’s Dipankar Kaushal struck a hole-in-one on the 11th during his round of 72. He was placed tied 42nd.