Khalin Joshi produced a final finish with five birdies on the back nine to keep himself in contention for his maiden Asian Tour title even as Thailand’s Poom Saksansin played steady golf to stay ahead at the end of the third day of the TAKE Solutions Masters golf at the KGA.
Poom (70) was 12-under 201, while Khalin Joshi (68) was 10-under and Chikkarangappa S (69) was 8-under in third place.
The day’s top round came from Abhinav Lohan (64), who zoomed from Tied-32 and even par after second round to seven-under and tied fourth with Divyanshu Bajaj (69). Another 64 came from Natipong Srithong, who was tied-sixth with Casey O’Toole (65). Syed Saqib Ahmed (71) stayed at eighth place at five-under 208.
However, Rahil Gangjee, Viraj Madappa and Sujjan Singh, all carded 73 each, and dropped from overnight Tied-3rd to Tied-13th. All three had disappointing finishes. Gangjee had three birdies against five bogey, two of them in last two holes, while Madappa had three bogeys and a double bogey between 12th and 17th holes and Sujjan had a double on 16th and a bogey on 18th.
The threesome Poom, Joshi and Chikka, who will form the final group on Sunday, have played together since their junior amateur days and will now get a chance to test themselves in professional ranks. Poom has one win on the Asian Tour, achieved at Indonesian Masters last year besides an ADT win, while Chikka has two ADT wins, both in TAKE Solutions events in 2014 and 2015. Joshi has tasted professional victory on the Indian Tour and has come close on Asian Tour, but not managed to close it.
Joshi had a good start with birdies on second and third and the lead between him and Poom was reduced to one, as the Thai dropped a shot on second. Then Joshi lost his way with two bogeys and a double between sixth and ninth. Another birdie for Poom saw the Thai go seven ahead of Joshi with seven holes left for the day.
But then over the remainder of the round, Joshi worked his way back extremely well with five birdies, while Poom had one birdie and one bogey and the margin at the end of the eventful third round was just two.
“I had a good feel on the first four holes as I swung it well and was also striking it well. Then a bad tee shot on sixth just changed my whole rhythm. I felt I was just hurrying it a little at that stage. The 6-foot birdie on 11th got me back on the rails,” said Joshi.
He added,” At one stage after Poom birdied the 10th I was seven shots behind. I thought I had lost it. But I’m thrilled with the five-under on the back-nine. I’ll carry some confidence from the latter stages of the round.”
“The conditions got quite tough when it rained in the middle of the round. It was hard to get the ball out of the rough,” said a smiling Joshi.
Joshi added, “We (Poom, Chikka and I) have played a lot together since junior days. I first met him almost eight-nine years ago at a World Junior event and then many more times. He was also there at Asia-Pacific juniors, when Chikka won it.”
Chikka said, “It was a bit of a struggle in the beginning. I made a good finish so I’m happy with it. The birdie on 18 was very special. I really wanted to be in the last group and give Poom a tough fight. I told my caddy that I’ll either gain or lose a shot so I attacked the green. I holed about a 50-foot birdie putt.
“The final round is going to be good fun playing with my good friends Khalin (Joshi) and Poom (Saksansin). We played a lot of junior golf together and we will really battle it out tomorrow.”
Poom said, “I missed a lot of fairways and when I was on the fairway, my iron shots were not accurate so I’m very happy to play under-par. My swing feels a bit off but it is not a big problem. I will go to the driving range and fix it.”