Kshitij and Shankar Das takes joint third round lead at Pune Open

Late flourish by Kshitij Naveed Kaul and Shankar Das share the lead at penultimate round of Pune Open. Kapil Kumar equals course record with his 63.

Kshitij Naveed Kaul shares third round lead with Shankar Das at Pune Open

April 04, 2019: A few new names emerged as contenders as there was major churning on the leaderboard in round three of the TATA Steel PGTI’s Pune Open Golf Championship 2019 at the Poona Club Golf Course on Thursday. 

Rookie teenager Kshitij Naveed Kaul (66) of Delhi and the seasoned Shankar Das (67) of Kolkata, a previous winner at the Poona Club Golf Course, enjoyed late flourishes to move into the joint lead at 11-under-202.

Panchkula-based Angad Cheema (67) too made gains to end the day in third place at 10-under-203 at the Rs. 30 lakh event.

Delhi’s Kapil Kumar equaled the course record with a phenomenal eight-under-63 to jump from overnight tied 35th to tied 10th at six-under-207.

Eighteen-year-old Kshitij Naveed Kaul (69-67-66), lying tied fifth and two off the lead at the halfway stage, moved up four spots in round three to stake his claim for a maiden title.

Kaul, who had a career-best runner-up finish at PGTI’s event in Chittagong, Bangladesh, last month, made a slow start on Thursday with a bogey on second. He managed to pull one back before the turn as he chipped-in for birdie on the eighth.

Kshitij was then on fire on the back-nine as he produced five birdies on the last six holes with three of them coming as a result of conversions from a range of 15 to 35 feet.

Kaul said, “My approach shots and putting helped me score well today. I had a slow start but I more than made up on the back-nine. Even though it’s my rookie season on the PGTI, but I feel I’ve now settled down well and am not overawed by situations.

“This is the second time after Chittagong that I’ll be playing in the leader group on the final day. So I feel that I now have that little bit of experience of being in this situation. That will certainly help me come the final round. But I’ll just take it one shot at a time and try not to think too much about the leaderboard.”

Shankar Das (68-67-67), lying one off the lead in fourth at the halfway stage, also enjoyed a late surge like Kaul. Shankar made pars all the way till the 13th before picking up four shots on the last five holes. Das, a seven-time winner on the PGTI, birdied the 14th and 15thand then sank a brilliant 15-footer for eagle on the 18th.

Shankar, who won his last title in 2017, said, “I began well as I missed out on a birdie by a whisker on the first where my bunker shot just touched the hole and went past. At that point I knew I would have a good round. The final stretch was just incredible and gave me loads of confidence. I now go into the last round with the good memories of having won at this venue back in 2011.”

Angad Cheema, who won his only title in his rookie season in 2013, climbed two spots to third place after returning a card that featured five birdies and a bogey. Cheema was consistent and kept the errors out and the highlight of his day was driving the green on the par-4 14th.

Bengaluru’s Syed Saqib Ahmed and Mysuru’s Yashas Chandra were tied for fourth at nine-under-204.

All the three joint leaders from round two slipped on day three. While N Thangaraja (71) of Sri Lanka dropped to sixth and eight-under-205, Lucknow’s Sanjeev Kumar (73) slipped to tied 10th at six-under-207 and Bengaluru’s Jaibir Singh (76) ended the day in tied 17th at three-under-210.

Kapil Kumar’s fantastic approach shots helped him land the ball close to the pins through the day. His round consisting of nine birdies and a bogey helped him match the course record of 63, a number also shot in round one by Ahmedabad-based Samarth Dwivedi.

There are now six joint course record holders also including the likes of C Muniyappa (2014 PGTI Qualifying School Final Stage), Chikkarangappa (2006), S Madaiah (2005) and Vijay Kumar (2004).

Pravin Pathare (69) was the highest-placed Pune golfer in tied 25th at even-par-213.

The five other Pune-based professionals who made the cut were, Pravin Pathare, Sagar Raghuvanshi, Rajiv Datar and Sameer Shaikh (all in tied 35th at two-over-144) as well as Akshay Damale (tied 44th at three-over-145).

Chandigarh’s Harendra Gupta, the winner of the 2016 Pune Open, closed the day in tied 50th at six-over-219.