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Sports


Ajeetesh & Rashid Khan share lead;Karandeep slips to 3rd spot

Ajeetesh & Rashid Khan share lead;Karandeep slips to 3rd spot

Chandigarh, Oct 19 (UNI) After dropping one stroke on the first hole, Chandigarh’s Ajeetesh Sandhu played a near perfect golf to register one under par on the 7th, 10th, 13th, 14th, 15th and 17th holes to return a card of 67 (36+31) in the second edition of the Jeev Milkha Singh Invitational presented by TAKE Solutions which seems to be heading towards a fascinating finish as multiple contenders emerged on day three of the Rs 1.5 crore event being played at the Chandigarh Golf Club.

The TATA Steel PGTI Order of Merit leader Rashid Khan of Delhi, who has been in devastating form this season, staked claim to his fourth title of the year with an error-free five-under-67 that propelled him to the top of the leaderboard at 14-under-202.

Ajeetesh Sandhu, fresh from a recent joint runner-up finish on the Asian Tour, also fired a 67 on Saturday to join Rashid Khan as the co-leader.

Karandeep Kochhar will be the second Chandigarh player in the leader group on Sunday since he closed round three in third place at 13-under-203. Kochhar, the runner-up last year, returned a steady 71 in the penultimate round to keep himself in the race.

Rashid Khan (71-64-67), who matched the course record of 64 on day two to move within three of the lead in tied third, didn’t concede a shot for the second straight day. Khan, the winner of PGTI’s last event in Chandigarh in May this year, had a slow start on Saturday but then gradually built the momentum.

Rashid sank three long birdie putts on the fifth, eighth and 12th, the last being a mammoth 40-footer. The 28-year-old then made a couple of brilliant chip-putt birdies on the 16th and 17th.

Khan said, “It was a good ball-striking day for me and I’m happy to go bogey-free once again. The long birdie conversion on the 12th was the highlight of my round. I did really well to hang in there and keep myself in the game despite the slow start.

“On the front-nine I grazed the hole on a few occasions as I couldn’t read the speed of the greens. However, on the back-nine I was much better as I made all one-putts except on the last hole where I two-putted.

“The way I’ve been playing this year, I have the self-belief to contend at every event. Once you’re in a zone where you can score, you don’t see anything else. I feel it’s going to be a tough fight tomorrow as I’m up against two of the local favourites who will have the crowd support.”

Ajeetesh Sandhu (66-69-67), also lying tied third and three off the lead at the halfway stage, enjoyed a solid day with a top-notch 67 that raised local hopes. The 31-year-old wasn’t at his best on the front-nine where he made a birdie and a bogey each. But on the back-nine he turned it on with five birdies including four on the last six holes.

Sandhu, the highest-ranked Indian on the Asian Tour so far this year as he is placed 15th, landed it within inches of the flag to set up tap-in birdies on the 14th and 17th.

Ajeetesh said, “I had a quiet front-nine as I couldn’t capitalize despite hitting it close on a few occasions. I misread some putts there. However, I struck it well off the tee and converted my putts on the back-nine.

“I feel I’m carrying the confidence from my recent performances on the Asian Tour where I’ve shot some good scores and had one good result just prior to this event. I’m excited about the final round as nothing can really top the feeling of contending for the title at your home course where you’ve grown up playing golf.”

Karandeep Kochhar (65-67-71), who was in the lead for the first two days, slipped to third place in round three after a sedate 71. Kochhar, like Ajeetesh, began the day with a three-putt bogey on the first. After recovering well with a great par-save on the second, Karandeep collected two more birdies on the sixth and 12th courtesy his precise approach shots.

Kochhar said, “I didn’t drive as well as the first two days and also didn’t hit it as close. But my putting was good and I hung in there not letting the game get away from me.

“At the start of the week, had someone told me that I would be in the leader group on the final day and just one off the lead, I would’ve taken that. It’ll not be easy competing with two very experienced players in the last round. But sometimes it’s not bad to be just one shot back.”

Sri Lankan Mithun Perera, the overnight joint leader along with Kochhar, dropped to fourth place at 11-under-205 after his 73 in the third round.

Akshay Sharma (66) and Aadil Bedi (68) were the other two Chandigarh players in the top-10. Akshay occupied sixth at nine-under-207 while Aadil was a further shot back in seventh.

Gurugram-based Manu Gandas shot the best round of the day, a seven-under-65, to move into tied eighth at seven-under-209. Among the other players bunched in tied eighth were Indian star Jyoti Randhawa (69) and Bengaluru’s Viraj Madappa (71).

Rory Hie (69) of Indonesia, the leading foreign name in the field, was in tied 20th at five-under-211.

Reigning champion Chikkarangappa (76) of Bengaluru was placed tied 40th at one-over-217.

UNI XC DB SY 2058

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