Akshay Sharma retains a slim advantage in Chandigarh

Akshay Sharma battled to a 71 to retain a one-stroke lead in the Jeev Mlikha Singh Invitational. Anirban Lahiri is tied in third just two strokes off the pace

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Akshay Sharma - Round 2 - PGTI Image

The stage is set for a thrilling final round at the Chandigarh Golf Club. The top nine men are separated by just four shots, with Akshay Sharma on the top at 10-under 206 through 54 holes. The 30-year-old is making the most of his knowledge, revelling on his home course. Amardeep Malik was in second at 9-under with Anirban Lahiri, Aman Raj and Veer Ahlawat in third a further stroke behind.

Karandeep Kochhar continued his impressive recovery with a 67 in the third round. After a nervy 76 in the opening round, playing in the company of Anirban and Gaganjeet Bhullar, the local lad has worked his way back with a 66 on Friday. At 7-under, he is in sixth place. His 67 was the low round on Saturday, when tricky pin positions and a bit of wind made it hard for the golfers.

Udayan Mane, Chikkarangappa and Harshjeet Singh Sethie are tied in seventh at six-under 210. Viraj Madappa rounded off the top ten heading into Sunday at 5-under, just ahead of Aadil Bedi, Manu Gandas and M Dharma.

First round leader Khalin Joshi and C Muniyappa conceded ground after struggling to a 76 in the third round.

Akshay Sharma had a shaky start when bogeys at the first and fourth rendered him vulnerable at the top. But he bounced back with a solid return stretch, making three birdies in five holes from the tenth hole. Sharma is on a hot streak, having won in Panchkula and finished third at the Chandigarh Golf Club less than a month ago.

“The weather conditions were the toughest today especially when I started. It was extremely windy so club selection was difficult and that resulted in bogeys for me early on. On the front-nine I found only four greens in regulation and just couldn’t hit it close enough.

“I’m generally one-under on the first four holes but being two-over this time there was some pressure on me. The pressure only released with the 20-feet birdie conversion on the 10th. I knew I could get a few more birdies thereafter so I was in good rhythm from there on.

“A score of one-under is very good keeping in mind today’s conditions. I know there will be stiff competition on the final day with a lot of names in the reckoning including Anirban but I will just focus on executing my plans.”

Akshay Sharma

After a bogey on the first hole, Anirban buckled down and got a measure of the course with some disciplined golf. He shot a birdie on the second to recoup the loss immediately. And then took birdies on the 13th and 17th holes to secure a useful 70 on Saturday. The last time Anirban won on the PGTI Tour was at the Kalhaar Blues and Greens at the start of the 2014 season. Since then, the only event he has played was the Hero Indian Open, which he won in 2015.

“It was another good day of ball-striking but the toughest day for me on the greens. I missed so many putts inside 10 feet and also missed a couple of three-footers.

“However, I feel I didn’t hit too many bad putts. I made a lot of good strokes but had a few bad breaks today. I feel as long as I’m stroking it well on the greens and doing what I need to do, I should have nothing to complain about.”

Anirban Lahiri

Only five golfers broke 70 on Saturday. Aman Raj made a 68 to move to 8-under. Karandeep is trailing him by a stroke at 7-under 209, with his 67. Manu Gandas made a solid 69 as did Trishul Chinnappa. Syed Saqib Ahmed clawed back to even par with a 69.