PGTI, 22 November 2019: Gurugram’s Veer Ahlawat, the overnight leader by one shot, extended his lead to three shots with a determined four-under-68 in the third and penultimate round of the IndianOil Servo Masters Golf 2019, a Rs. 60 lakh event, being played at the Digboi Golf Links. Ahlawat’s three-day total stood at an impressive 15-under-201.
Kolkata’s Divyanshu Bajaj (71) ended the day in fourth at 11-under-205 while six-time winner Mukesh Kumar of Mhow rose into contention with the day’s best round of 65 that propelled him to fifth place at 10-under-206.
Veer Ahlawat (69-64-68), the 2017 runner-up, raised hopes of a maiden title after he fired seven birdies in exchange for three bogeys on Friday. The six-foot four-inch tall Veer made a slow start for the third day in succession when he bogeyed the first after finding the hazard. Ahlawat’s birdies on the fourth and seventh were then negated by bogeys on the eighth and 10th where he hit a couple of erratic shots.
The tide began to turn for the long-hitting Veer when he birdied the 11th thanks to a brilliant drive. He then tapped-in on the 12th and landed it within four feet on the 13th to make three successive birdies. Ahlawat produced a final flourish with birdies on the 17th and 18th where he sank a 14-footer and made a good recovery from the hazard respectively.
Ahlawat, who produced the tournament’s best round of 64 on day two, said, “I had a poor start once again. But after the birdie on the 11th I felt my game was back and I can now go low.
“I was in deep trouble when I found the hazard on the first and had a plugged ball. I managed myself well on that hole to make a good bogey as it could’ve been worse. I also had a good finish making birdies on the last two holes and made a great comeback for the second day in succession.
“I went for birdies today and didn’t play safe just like the first two rounds. This will continue to be my strategy on the last day as that’s how I generally play.
“For me the back-nine is more scoring as I have more opportunities to hit the driver there. It’s the first five holes that have mostly troubled me at this venue. If I can get through the first five holes with a par score tomorrow, I will give myself a very good chance of winning.”
Like Ahlawat, M Dharma (67-67-70) too endured a poor start before fighting back with a hard-earned 70. Dharma bogeyed the first two holes as he struggled with his chip-putts. The two-time winner on the TATA Steel PGTI thereafter sank a few long putts to collect four birdies between the third and the 12th. Dharma added another bogey and birdie on the 15th and 16th to keep himself in the hunt.
Dharma, who continued to be tied second for the third consecutive day, said, “I didn’t play well around the greens as I missed several chip-putts. But my hitting was good and I still feel that I’m in with a chance.”
Abhishek Jha (66-68-70) also maintained his overnight tied second position courtesy a steady 70. Jha, the first round leader, couldn’t find his footing in the first half of the round as he missed a lot of short putts. He therefore made two birdies and two bogeys on the front-nine.
Abhishek had a far better back-nine after he got his putting going with a 25-feet birdie conversion on the 12th. The six-foot five-inch tall golfer, who struck the ball better than the first two days, added another birdie on the 15th to salvage his round.
Divyanshu Bajaj slipped two places to fourth after recording a 71 on Friday. The highlight of his round was the eagle-two on the third where he found the edge of the green with his drive before draining a 30-footer. The putts didn’t roll in for him on the back-nine as he kept burning the edges of the hole.
Mukesh Kumar’s 65, the day’s best score, lifted him eight spots to fifth place. Mukesh made an amazing eight birdies at the cost of a lone bogey. He made birdies on all the four par-5s and closed the day on a high with a 15-feet birdie conversion on the 18th hole.
Three-time winner and defending champion Shamim Khan of Delhi was placed tied 11th at five-under-211.