Feb 02, 2018: Bengaluru lad Syed Saqib Ahmed has done all the hard work for three days to get within striking distance of his maiden title at the PGTI Cochin Masters presented by CIAL Golf Club. The final round of the tournament will now be a test of the 23-year-old’s mental fortitude and finishing skills as he looks to drive home a four-shot advantage.
Saqib produced a rollercoaster one-under-71 on Friday to maintain his four-shot lead at 10-under-206 at the Rs. 40 lakh event.
Chandigarh’s Abhijit Singh Chadha (70), the only player besides Saqib to have posted three sub-par rounds in the week so far, rose from overnight tied third to second place at six-under-210. Abhijit’s good friend and roommate for the week, Amardip Sinh Malik (72) of Noida, will join him in the leader group on Saturday as the latter slipped one spot to third at five-under-211 in round three.
Syed Saqib Ahmed (69-66-71) looked in control for the most part of his round having made five birdies at the cost of just two bogeys on the first 12 holes. He found the hazard on the fourth and missed an up and down on the fifth to drop consecutive bogeys. But those errors were neutralized by his two 20-feet birdie conversions on the second and 12th along with three more holes where he gained shots.
Saqib, who had won multiple titles on the junior and amateur circuits before turning professional in 2015, then had a slump towards the end of his round as he bogeyed the 14th and 18th, the latter courtesy a three-putt. He thus closed the day with a modest 71.
Ahmed, India’s top junior golfer back in 2010, said, “I may be leading going into the final round of a professional event for the first time but I have been in this position before as a junior and amateur on a number of occasions. It’s now about staying calm and thinking about the occasions when I closed out matches at the junior and amateur level successfully.
“Today the birdie on 12th that moved me to three-under got me in a really good position, but the two three-putts on the last three holes, one for par and the other for bogey, were quite disappointing.
“The plan to take one shot at a time and not get too ahead of myself has worked for me till now. In round four, if I can just stick to that plan, I think I can do what I’ve come here to do. I’ve been working on the mental side of my game and hopefully that should bear fruit come the final round,” added Saqib, who had earlier produced a hole-in-one in round two.
Abhijit Singh Chadha (69-71-70) raced to three-under for the day on the front-nine as a result of two long birdie conversions and an exceptional chip that set up a tap-in birdie on the ninth. Chadha, a two-time winner on the PGTI, then found the hazard to drop a shot on the 11th. Thereafter Abhijit made pars all the way till the end to submit a card of 70.
Noida’s Amardip Sinh Malik, the first round leader, shot a second straight 72 to occupy third place, five behind the current leader.
Chandigarh’s Sujjan Singh signed the day’s best score of 68 to move into joint fourth along with Gaurav Pratap Singh (69) of Noida and Gurugram-based Ankur Chadha (69) at four-under-212.
Delhi’s Shamim Khan, the reigning PGTI Order of Merit champion, was placed tied 13th with a total of even-par-216.