04 September 2021: The dense clouds were hanging low in Hyderabad. Apparently, the golf was good enough for them to abstain from opening up and raining it away. As it is, the clouds waited just enough before pouring down, moments after Manu Gandas made the last putt of the third round.
On an interesting day for golf, made challenging by the monsoon winds, Manu Gandas and Amardeep Malik traded blows all day. In the end though, the leader did just enough to stay five clear at 20-under through 54 holes. The course played to par at 71 on Thursday, 68 on Friday and 67 in the third round. The third, sixth and eighteenth have all been adjusted to three this week to account for water on the course.
Gandas is a quiet young man, who can seem broody to the uninitiated. But once you break the ice, he is an introspective golfer, invested in himself as a golfer and human being. Introduced to golf through a summer clinic at DLF, where his father works, he took to the sport like fish to water. Since turning pro in 2015, the 25-year-old has been a consistent presence on the PGTI calendar.
On Sunday, he will hope to preserve his advantage and coast home to victory after collecting five top tens this season, including a second placed finish in the Glade One Masters.
Playing with Amardeep Malik and Kartik Sharma, Gandas saw his lead reduce to just three strokes by the eighth hole. Under pressure, he showed remarkable resilience to pick up five strokes between the 10th and 15th holes, including an eagle on the 15th to separate himself from the field. Even though he conceded a six on the par-5 17th hole, he reached Sunday leading by five strokes over three men.
“I got off to a slow start, but was happy with the way I played,” said Gandas. “I was particularly happy to bring the lead home with a solid back nine. And even though I pulled left at the 17th to make a bogey, I stayed calm.”
“I am looking forward to Sunday. Even though I am ahead, I will have to just play one shot at a time and stick to my processes. I will do just that tomorrow.”
In just his third season on the PGTI Tour, Yuvraj Singh Sandhu, another golfer aided by an armed forces affiliation, is looking for his best result yet. The 24-year-old has seven top-10s and the fourth place at the PGTI Players Championship at Chandigarh Golf Club in November last year remains the highlight of his young career.
After a 62 on Saturday, Yuvraj has given himself a look at something better this Sunday. He is tied in second with Chikkarangappa and Amardeep, five back from the leader.
“I am happy playing golf this week, it is good to be back on tour,” said Yuvraj. “Even though we are five back, this is golf and anything can happen. So I expect to come out and play my best again tomorrow.”
“I could have been in a better place, if I did not make three-putts on three holes today. I will hope to make a good start tomorrow and take it from there. I hope that the putter works too in the final round.”
His sister is a clinical psychologist. Yuvraj says that having a studious sister helped him focus on sport, as it provides his homestead some balance in terms of education and sport. He will also hope on Sunday that his sister can help put some steel in his nerves to get his putter going before it is too late for a charge.
Chikkarangappa had no problems with his putter. He could have been alone in second but for an excruciating lip out on the final hole. The ball appeared to roll in, before somehow escaping the cup, springing out from the elastic grasp of the flagstick.
“I have been in this position before. I know what it takes,” said the experienced Asian Tour pro. “I will hope to make an early push and see how far I can go on Sunday. I am feeling very positive about my golf.”
“It has been a while since I have won the order of merit. I would like to do it again,” added Chikka, who won the order of merit in 2015. “It would be a nice cushion too, since winning the year gives you the card for a five-year period.” Chikkarangappa shot 61 in the third round.
Amardeep continues to look solid off the tee and around the greens. His 64 matched Gandas and kept him where he started, with a five stroke deficit.
Local golfer Mohd Azhar shot a hole-in-one for a second straight tournament. He made one in Delhi and brought that luck home to nail the cup with his tee shot at the par-3 seventh hole. He made a 65 again to go 7-under in T14.
Angad Cheema joined the group at T14 with the day’s best of 60. He made birdies on the first two holes – 10 & 11 – before bringing his card home with four birdies in six holes from the fourth.