Feb 19, 2017: Chandigarh’s Ajeetesh Sandhu continued his love affair with the city of Hyderabad as he won the Golconda Masters, a Rs. 40 lakh event, 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, literally pulled a rabbit out of the hat on day four as he 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 could only manage a bogey after finding the bunker with his tee shot.
Ajeetesh, who refreshed memories of his victory last year, took home the winner’s cheque worth Rs. 6 lakh to emerge as the PGTI Order of Merit leader.
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 was quite relaxed in the break I had between my round and the playoff. I didn’t think too much about the playoff and just focused on repeating what I had done during the round.
“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.
“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”, said Khalin.
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.
Interestingly, the trophy was won by a Chandigarh golfer for the third time as Ajeetesh’s city-mate Harendra Gupta had won the first edition two years back.