A three-way tie at the top between Gaganjeet Bhullar, SSP Chawrasia and Amardeep Malik has nicely set up the final day of the Tata Steel Tour Championship being played at the Beldih and Golmuri golf courses in Jamshedpur.
Kapurthala-based Bhullar and Kolkata’s Chawrasia, both winners on the European Tour and Asian Tour, as well as Noida’s Malik, a two-time winner on the PGTI, ended the penultimate day of the Rs. 1.5 crore event with matching totals of 20-under-196.
While Gaganjeet raised his hopes with a determined third round of 64, SSP and Amardeep too continued to be in contention with rounds of 68 and 67 respectively on Saturday.
Bengaluru’s Khalin Joshi produced the day’s best score of 10-under-62 to occupy tied fourth place at 18-under-198 along with another Bengaluru player Chikkarangappa (68).
The leading 27 players out of 53 played their first nine holes at Golmuri and second nine holes at Beldih. The remaining 26 players played at Beldih first and then Golmuri. The same format will continue on Sunday during the final round.
Gaganjeet Bhullar (69-63-64), lying tied fifth and five off the lead at the halfway stage, surged up the leaderboard with a round featuring nine birdies and a bogey. The man with 10 international titles to his credit including eight on the Asian Tour started the day with some tremendous recoveries from the trees on the second and third where he birdied thanks to up and downs from close to 100 yards on both occasions.
Gaganjeet went on to sink a monster 40-feet birdie putt on the seventh before producing another excellent wedge shot to set up a tap-in birdie on the ninth. Bhullar further consolidated his position picking up five more birdies over the next seven holes where he made a couple of good up and downs and also landed his approaches within five feet on two occasions. His only bogey of the day on the 17th was the result of a missed up and down.
Bhullar said, “It was a solid round and I feel a continuation from the second day where I had shot a nine-under. I made a lot of up and downs for birdies. I also scrambled well at the start having found the trees twice.
“I’ve given myself a lot of chances in the last two days and putted really well. I’ve been getting close enough to the pins and have been converting those chances which kept building the momentum for me. I feel I’ve adjusted well to the varying conditions at the two courses.
“It’ll be interesting to play in the leader group along with SSP after a long time. I can’t remember the last time we played together in the leader group on the final day.”
Amardeep Malik (63-66-67) made his way up from overnight third and two off the lead even as his bogey-free run came to an end. Among Malik’s seven birdies, two were tap-ins, two were long conversions and one was an up and down from the bunker. He also dropped two bogeys.
Amardeep said, “I feel I still have to be tighter with my game when I’m playing under pressure especially in the last two rounds. That’s the consistency I need. Today it was fun to play alongside my favourite Indian golfer SSP Chawrasia. Fortunately, I’ll get to play in the same group as him tomorrow as well.
“I dropped my first bogey of the tournament today on the sixth. I therefore achieved a personal record this week by going bogey-free in a tournament for 41 holes.”
SSP Chawrasia (67-61-68), who was overnight second and one off the lead, followed up his spectacular 61 on day two with a flawless 68 on Saturday to gain one spot and move into the joint lead.
Chawrasia, a winner of six international titles including four on the European Tour, said, “I missed a few short putts today but I was in control of my round. In round two I was much closer to the flags and holed more putts compared to today.
“I’ll go into the last round with a lot of self-belief as I’ve won here on three previous occasions having played the same format, the front-nine at Golmuri and back-nine at Beldih.”
Khalin Joshi, still recovering from a wrist injury, made two eagles and six birdies during his sensational 62 to rise 10 spots from his overnight tied 14th. Joshi’s two eagles came on the fourth and 16th holes. He landed his drive within five feet on the par-4 fourth while on the 16th he sank a 20-footer.