M Dharma stays ahead in Jaipur Open

The lead is down to two, but enough to keep M Dharma ahead of Khalin Joshi as the Jaipur Open reaches an intriguing final round on Friday

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M Dharma - RGC - PGTI

14 October 2021: Bengalureans, good friends and regular practice partners M Dharma and Khalin Joshi are all set to take on each other in a fascinating contest for top honours in the final round of the Rs. 40 lakh Jaipur Open 2021 Presented by Rajasthan Tourism being played at the par-70 Rambagh Golf Club (RGC).

Two-time PGTI winner Dharma (62-62-65), the overnight leader by three shots, ended round three with a two-shot lead after his score of 65 on Thursday moved his total to 21-under 189.

Khalin Joshi (61-66-64), a winner of four titles including one on the Asian Tour, moved from overnight tied second to sole second place at 19-under 191 following his 64 in round three.

Thirty-five-year-old Dharma and 29-year-old Khalin, both belonging to the same course, the Karnataka Golf Association (KGA), have stamped their authority this week in Jaipur as both have been placed inside the top-3 on the first three days of the event.

Veer Ahlawat (67) of Gurugram and Chandigarh’s Harendra Gupta (67) will be the dark horses going into the final day as they are currently placed third at 16-under 194 and fourth at 15-under 195 respectively.

Dharma, looking for his first title in four years, had a slow start to the day as he missed a few short birdie putts early on and then dropped a bogey on the fourth after finding the bunker. Dharma finally got into his stride with a great tee shot on the sixth that left him a four-feet birdie conversion.

Thereafter Dharma added five more birdies till the 16th thanks to some birdie conversions from a range of six to 10 feet. His accurate approach on the 15th set up a tap-in birdie for him. He missed only his second green of the day on the 17th and paid the penalty with another bogey. Dharma capped the day picking up another stroke on the 18th where he had an opportunity for eagle from 15 feet.

Dharma said, “The fact that I missed two greens today and bogeyed both those holes means I need to continue hitting it well in order to create more chances for myself. Once I do that, I’m confident that the putts will roll in.

“After a poor start, it was the excellent tee shot on the fourth that got me back in my rhythm. I enjoy playing at the RGC as it is a shorter course and thus suits my game since my wedge-play is very strong.

“It’ll be fun playing alongside Khalin once again as we often play our practice rounds together back in Bengaluru. There will be a lot of banter among us and a lot of words exchanged but the competition will still be intense.”

Khalin Joshi, searching for his first win in three years, went bogey-free for the first time this week. His six birdies were complemented by two outstanding par-saves from a distance of 12 to 20 feet on the eighth and 16th.  

Veer Ahlawat kept himself in contention with a 67 that featured six birdies and three bogeys. He finished runner-up in consecutive PGTI events in September.

Harendra Gupta sank an eagle on the 17th and made four birdies and three bogeys during his 67. He has maintained his position inside the top-5 over the first three days.

Kolkata’s Sunit Chowrasia shot the day’s best score of 63 to be placed tied fifth at 14-under 196 along with PGTI Order of Merit leader Karandeep Kochhar (67) of Chandigarh and last week’s winner Viraj Madappa (68) of Kolkata.

Olympian Udayan Mane (68) was tied 12th at 11-under 199.

Jaipur’s Hemendra Choudhary (66-70-68), playing at his home course, was tied 31st at six-under 204.