Dharma takes centrestage as Golconda Masters reaches its climax

M Dharma hung on with grim determination through a testing second round. He made 69 to hold a two-stroke cushion into Sunday

M Dharma shot 69 in the third round of the Golconda Masters

08 February 2019: PGTI Tour Release

Bengaluru’s M Dharma emerged as the man to beat on day three of the PGTI’s season-opener, the Rs. 40 lakh Golconda Masters Golf Championship 2019 Powered By Telangana Tourism. Dharma, the joint halfway leader, carded a two-under 69 in the penultimate round to build a two-shot lead at 16-under 197 at the Hyderabad Golf Club (HGC).

The chasing pack at 14-under-199 featured some established names such as Bengaluru’s Chikkarangappa (70), Delhi’s Rashid Khan (68), Chandigarh’s Karandeep Kochhar (66), who shot the day’s joint lowest score and rookie Priyanshu Singh (68) of Gurugram, the 2019 PGTI Qualifying School champion who is playing only his second professional event.

M Dharma (64-64-69), a two-time winner on the PGTI who finished tied fifth at the Golconda Masters last year, set himself up for his first win since December 2017 with a hard-earned 69 in the third round. The 32-year-old recovered well after his early bogey on the fifth with birdies in quick succession on the eighth, 10th and 11th. On the eighth and 11th he landed it within a foot to set up tap-ins.

Dharma, who has been extremely consistent with his ball-striking this week, added another birdie on the 15th where he missed his second eagle putt of the day by a fraction. He then found the water hazard on the 17th to slip back to two-under for the day. The man with two top-10s on the Asian Tour last year finally signed off with a brilliant 10-foot par putt on the 18th, his longest conversion of the day.

Dharma said, “I played really well at HGC last year and posted a top-5. So I believe I can do even better this year. I’m reading the greens better as compared to the first two days. I was unlucky to narrowly miss out on eagles on the 10th and 15th where my putts just about brushed past the hole.

“Given the fact that today we had the toughest pin positions, I feel I played really well. I made a crucial par-save from 10 feet on the last hole that kept me ahead by two. The only letdown today was a few bad decisions as regards club selection. However, I’m quite pleased with my consistency this week. The effort will now be to make this lead count on the final day.”

Among the four names bunched in tied second, rookie Priyanshu Singh (67-64-68) had the most fascinating day. The 22-year-old was three-over through the first seven holes but then produced a magical spell of six birdies between the eighth and the 15th, including four on the trot, to end up with a 68 and gain two positions from his overnight tied fourth.

Digvijay Singh made a hole-in-one
Digvijay Singh made a hole-in-one

Priyanshu said, “I’ve been swinging it well so I didn’t lose focus despite the three bogeys at the start. I then made a couple of long conversions and drained a few from five to six feet to get back into contention.

“The momentum has been there since the win at the PGTI Q School and it would be great to carry it into the last day here at the HGC.”

Chikkarangappa (65-64-70), also in tied second, too had a contrasting front-nine and back-nine. He was three-over at the turn and then rallied with a four-under in the second half to stay in the contest.

Bengaluru’s Khalin Joshi (68) and defending champion Udayan Mane (67) of Ahmedabad were placed sixth at 13-under-200 and seventh at 12-under-201 respectively.

Patna’s Aman Raj, the joint round two leader, slipped to tied eighth at 11-under-202 after a third round of 74.

Noida’s Gaurav Pratap Singh, who shot a course record 61 on day two, dropped four places after a 71 to join Aman Raj and Delhi’s Honey Baisoya in tied eighth.

Gurugram’s Digvijay Singh made a hole-in-one on the 11th during his round of 67. He was placed tied 26th at four-under-209.