Udayan Mane wins a thriller against SSP Chawrasia to win PGTI Tour Championship

Udayan Mane made birdies on the last two holes to secure a one-stroke victory over SSP Chawrasia at the Golmuri Golf Club in Jamshedpur. Rashid Khan won the 2019 Order of Merit, with Kshitij Naveed Kaul the best emerging player ahead of Aadil Bedi

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Udayan-Mane wins PGTI Tour Championship

29 December 2019: Draw the curtains. The season has come to a spectacular end with a thrilling one-stroke victory for Udayan Mane against a resurgent SSP Chawrasia. It was the perfect finish to two tormented golfers, who have both struggled with their game this season. The turnaround took seed when Chawrasia forced his way back to the European Tour by finishing fourth in the final stage of qualifying school. Mane had missed the cut at the Tata Open in 2018 and returned stronger with a victory in February and three other top tens, before clinching a nail biting victory in Jamshedpur. Mane produced some clutch golf at the end, making birdies at the last two holes to eke out a win in the season ending PGTI Tata Steel Tour Championship.

Intense battle down the stretch

SSP-Chawrasia-PGTI-Tour-Championship
SSP-Chawrasia-PGTI-Tour-Championship

The two men were tied at the top when Mane made his birdie at the 17th hole, with Chawrasia left with two more holes to play, in the group behind Mane. The tables had turned moments before though, when Chawrasia conceded his lead with an untimely bogey at the 15th hole to open the door for Mane. The Pune based golfer took the opportunity with both hands, shutting the door on his senior rival with a pair of birdies to finish the week on a high.

Mane started the week in T15 after making an error free 67 in the opening round, when Kapil Kumar stole a march on the field with a pulsating 62. But he kept climbing each day, chipping away at the lead one birdie at a time. The golfer, who signed up with Vooty Golf County in Telangana this year, started the day three strokes back from Aman Raj on Sunday. But he played a blemishless final round, decorated with five birdies and an eagle, his third this week, to secure a memorable victory.

“I’m pretty pleased with the entire season having registered two wins. I started the year well but then had a rocky road from March to September. But that lean phase helped me learn a lot about myself and my golf swing and that in turn led to my better performances late in the year at Kensville (PGTI) and in Mauritius (Asian Tour),” said Mane.

“The biggest takeaway from this victory is that I won a tournament which had an elite field and at a time when so many players were playing their best golf. That is a big morale-booster.”

“According to me, it was a good thing that I was not playing in the leader group. I was quite happy about that because I have come from behind to win on the last day on a few occasions in the past,” he added. “After scoring well over the first 11 holes, I had a cold patch as I was not hitting it close enough. But I knew making birdie on the 17th was important because that would help me join SSP in the lead.  I managed to do that and did well to carry the momentum onto the 18th.

“It’s special to end up with a record 26-under total. Interestingly, I also have the amateur record of 21-under in my name here at Golmuri. I thank my sponsor AVT for all their support which has been a major contributing factor to my good performances.”

Chawrasia brought himself to contention on Saturday firing five birdies in seven holes on the home stretch. Playing some measured golf, he scattered his birdies on Sunday as he worked his way into a comfortable lead, being five-under through the 13th hole. But that was where his train stuttered to a stop, and an untimely bogey at the par-4 15th dented his aspirations. With two par-5s in the last three holes, Chawrasia had a window of opportunity, especially knowing what was needed in the group behind Mane, but he came home making three straight pars to settle for second place.

Rashid Khan wins the Order of Merit

Rashid Khan and Kshitij Naveed Kaul
Rashid Khan and Kshitij Naveed Kaul

Delhi golfer Rashid Khan endured a thoroughly challenging year, and came out in flying colours. The Delhi Golf Club distraction served to motivate the talented golfer into a period of consistency that has catapulted him to the top rung of Indian golf. The world No. 210 secured two wins and ten top 10s on the PGTI Tour in 2019. With earnings of Rs. 66,27,650 Rashid was head and shoulders over the chasing pack with Chikkarangappa in second at Rs. 50,27,778. To his credit, Chikka played just seven events compared to 14 by Rashid. They are followed on the order of merit by Udayan Mane, who alongside Chikka and Rashid are the only men with two titles this season. Karandeep Kocchar is in fourth place with Veer Ahlawat, who scored his maiden victory this season is in fifth place.

This is Rashid’s third order of merit, having topped the money charts in 2013 and 2016. However, his earnings this season are the highest recorded in a single season on the Indian tour.

There have been eleven different winners on the PGTI Tour this season – Rashid, Chikka, Udayan, Veer, Kshitij Naveed Kaul (6th on merit), Ajeetesh Sandhu (7), Mukesh Kumar (8), Shamim Khan (15), Md. Zamal Hossain Mollah (17), Mithun Perera (18), and Abhinav Lohan (21).

Chiragh Kumar, Aman Raj and Thangaraja also star during the Tour Championship

At various points leading to the final result, three men deserve a special mention for playing some purposeful, determined golf to try and challenge for victory. Chiragh Kumar shot 65 twice, in the first and third rounds to help himself into third place with a 67 on Sunday taking him to 23-under 265, just three behind the winner.

Aman Raj was in the lead at the start of the final round, but a triple bogey at the par-3 first hole set him back. He recovered smartly with an eagle at the second and two consecutive birdies, but another bogey at the sixth and a double at the par-5 ninth gave away his nerves. But the ambitious golfer, who has secured his card on the Asian Tour for 2020, came back strong. He shot three straight birdies on the back nine before coming home on five straight pars to close the week with a 71 in a tie for third with Chiragh.

Thangaraja flew into the lead with a 63 on Friday, before Aman relegated him into T2 with Chawrasia despite a 66 on Saturday from the Lankan golfer. Playing in the final group on Sunday, he too shot a 71 to settle for fifth place at 22-under.

Om Prakash Chouhan and Karandeep Kocchar finished in T6, 21-under making 68 & 67 respectively to secure themselves the last of the OWGR points for this decade. Abhijit Singh Chadha was alone in eighth, a further stroke back with a 67.

Kshitij Naveed Kaul and Aadil Bedi, two of the most promising young talents in India, closed out the top ten at 19-under 269. Kshitij made 67 while Aadil shot a 71, simmering from a blazing 64 in the third round. Kshitij edged out Aadil to secure the emerging player honours on the order of merit, finishing sixth on the order of merit with a win and eight top-10s, while Aadil finished tenth on the money list for 2019.