Pune: The events in round three of the Rs. 40 lakh Pune Open Golf Championship 2021 saw the tournament emerge into a two-horse race with Chandigarh’s Abhijit Singh Chadha taking a one-shot lead over Gurugram-based rookie Kartik Sharma even as the rest of the field were another eight shots behind.
The 30-year-old Abhijit Singh Chadha (63-65-64), lying overnight second and two shots off the lead, produced a six-under 64 on Friday, his second successive bogey-free round, to take his tournament tally to 17-under 192 at the Poona Club Golf Course.
The 21-year-old Kartik Sharma (66-60-67), the overnight leader, on the other hand, carded a three-under 67 on day three to drop to second place at 16-under 193. The left-hander’s round featured five birdies and two bogeys.
A shootout between Abhijit and Kartik, lying 24th and 25th in the PGTI Order of Merit respectively, is now in the offing on the final day as the duo is miles ahead of the rest of the field.
Kolkata’s Sunit Chowrasia shot the day’s best score of seven-under 63 that propelled him 11 spots to tied third at eight-under 201 along with Bangladesh’s Md Zamal Hossain Mollah (68) and Bengaluru’s Syed Saqib Ahmed (68).
Hole no. 5 which had been reduced from a Par-4 to a Par-3 due to the wet conditions during round two, was once again played as a Par-4 in round three as the course dried up on Friday. The par for the course was therefore reverted from 69 to the original 70 during round three.
There was a one-hour delay in the commencement of play in the morning due to low visibility. On Friday, play commenced at 9 am local time. There was no rain for most part of the day before it started drizzling in the last one hour of play before intensifying into a heavy shower in the last 15 to 20 minutes of play.
Abhijit Singh Chadha’s hot putter earned him his breakthroughs on the front-nine as he picked up birdies from a range of 12 to 25 feet on the fourth, sixth and eighth recovering well from the fairway bunker on the eighth. Abhijit came up with an excellent chip to set up a tap-in birdie on the ninth.
The 2010 Asian Games silver medalist Chadha, who has played well on the Par-5s through the week, once again capitalized on the two Par-5s, the 12th and 18th, by sinking birdies there. His wedge shot from 145 yards landed within a foot on the 18th. Abhijit, who stands tall at over six feet in height, has now been error-free since his bogey on the opening hole in round one.
Chadha, a two-time winner on the PGTI, said, “I kept myself in play throughout and was happy to not drop a shot once again. Besides the birdies I made two great par saves from 15 feet on the fifth and the 17th, both coming at crucial moments.
“I brought my experience into play when the conditions suddenly changed with the heavy rain on the last hole. I didn’t let it affect me mentally. I planned the last hole like a three-shot hole and made birdie there.
“The key to playing the Par-5s well is getting your drive on the fairway. I did that on both the Par-5s today and capitalized on them. I was also reading and rolling it well on the greens as I’ve been working on trying to get the ball past the hole.
“On the final day, I’ve just got to do the best that I can do and I know that my best is good enough to win. That is all I’m focusing on.”
Kartik Sharma, searching for his first title, will be looking to emulate Abhijit, who incidentally won the first of his two titles during his rookie season on the PGTI in 2012. In round three Kartik led for a major part of the day as he came back strong after an early bogey by sinking birdies on the fifth, sixth, ninth, 10th and 14th. Most of his conversions were from a range of seven to 15 feet.
Sharma, one of India’s leading amateurs prior to turning pro in 2020, then hit his drive near a tree on the 17th where he did not have a swing. He thus had to chip out and settle for a bogey there.
Kartik said, “I made a good par putt on the 13th from eight feet that kept the momentum going. A couple of good up and downs for par on the 15th and 16th were also very crucial as they kept me right up there on the leaderboard.
“I’m still talking to my coach every day to try and figure out a few things about my swing. That is work in progress but it’s trending in the right direction.
“Looking ahead to the final round, for me it would be just about playing my game and taking it one shot at a time. The focus will be on trying and hitting as many good shots as I can.”
Among the Pune golfers, amateur Rohan Dhole Patil (75-67-68) was the highest-placed at tied 25th at a total of one-over 210.
Fourteen-year-old Australian amateur of Indian origin Aarav D Shah (69-70-71) was also in tied 25th place.