31 March 2019: The temperature was nudging into the high thirties even as the final groups teed off at the DLF Golf & Country Club. A test of character in such muggy weather isn’t for the weak hearted and several of the early starters began filing into the scorers’ hut with grim faces. The back nine was beginning to bite the golfers, one last time, lest they forget the suffering in a hurry.
Julian Suri opened the door with a miserable quadruple bogey on the 14th and Stephen Gallacher barged right in to force his way to victory with birdies at the final two holes. In the end, it seemed like an emphatic victory, but in reality, it was a wounder boxer prevailing in the dying moments of the 12th with a last gasp uppercut to take the 55th Hero Indian Open.
At the head of the table, earlier in the day, Julian Suri and Callum Shinkwin were punching like heavyweights, indulging in an expectedly attritional battle. By the seventh hole, Suri conceded three bogeys and Shinkwin two as they jostled for the lead.
The first significant shift though came right at the bend – Suri made back to back birdies to move to 10-under even as Shinkwin conceded a pair of bogeys. Suddenly they were separated by three strokes, with Shinkwin making space for James Morrison who squeezed up to 8-under.
Chikkarangappa started the day with a birdie at the first hole, but he was two-over very soon. A double-bogey six at the par-4 10th hole sank any chances of a victorious Sunday for the Indian. He finished with a 74 to secure a tie for tenth with Rashid Khan among others.
Shubhankar Sharma also made an auspicious start with a birdie at the second hole, but his joy was shortlived. He bled four strokes between the 8th, where he made double, and the 12th holes. Eventually, he shot 75 and ended the week at even par in T27.
As the leading group approached the 11th tee, it was Julian Suri that was sitting pretty on a three-stroke cushion over the men in the chasing pack at 7-under. There were five others at 6-under at this stage.
It doesn’t take too long though for the scorecards to change at the DLF Golf & Country Club. Jorge Campillo made a birdie at the 17th to move to six under for the day, up to second on the board at 8-under. Stephen Gallacher and Masahiro Kawamura were chasing their own tails at 7-under, with Suri staying resolutely at the top at 10-under.
Not for long though, as the tables turned one last time, in a violent upheaval at the par-4 14th hole. Suri’s chip rolled right back to where the ball was before a second attempt overshot the flag by a considerable distance. A three-putt from the fringe left him licking a quadruple bogey on the card and goodbye to his hopes for a famous victory.
Like wolves in waiting, Kawamura and Gallacher, both in the groups ahead took the opportunity without too much sweat. Interestingly Gallacher himself took in a quadruple at the 7th but five birdies between the 9th and 17th helped into a tie for the lead with Kawamura, whose birdie at 17 moved him to 8-under.
The pin was tucked right on the 18th as the undulating green awaited its newest champion. Gallacher produced, what was perhaps the shot of the week, an approach that tracked the flag and never quite left it. He needed two putts from where it stalled, but that moved him into the clubhouse lead at 9-under, with Kawamura tracing his steps down the 18th. The Japanese settled for a par at the 72nd to anoint Stephen Gallacher the 2019 champion of the Hero Indian Open.