Pune, 22 Apr 2017

Mukesh Kumar storms into the lead with a tournament best 65 on day three, stares at second straight title

Damian Naicker, Angad Cheema on the leader’s tail

Indian golfing legend Mukesh Kumar will be staring at his second title in two weeks on the PGTI when he tees it up in the final round of the Pune Open 2017 at the Poona Club Golf Course on Sunday.

The man from Mhow, Madhya Pradesh, who won PGTI’s event in Kochi last week, stormed into the third round lead in Pune thanks to a dazzling six-under-65, the tournament’s best score so far, that moved his total to seven-under-206.  

The chasing pack consisted of South African Damian Naicker and Panchkula’s Angad Cheema, who were one shot adrift of the lead in tied second at six-under-207. While rookie Naicker posted a 67 on Saturday, Cheema came up with a round of 70.

Mukesh Kumar (72-69-65) has set himself up nicely for a come-from-behind win for the second week running. The man, who broke his own record by becoming the oldest winner on the PGTI at age 51 years and eight months in Kochi last week, produced a breathtaking 65 in Pune on Saturday to move up 13 places from overnight tied 14th.
Mukesh, trailing the leaders by four shots at the start of the day, stumbled with an early bogey on the third before turning it around with four successive birdies from the sixth to the ninth as he kept landing his approach shots within five feet of the pin.

The winner of one Asian Tour title and more than 100 domestic titles raced to the lead with three more birdies on the back-nine.

“It was one of those days when I got up feeling that I would shoot a seven-under today. I shared the thought with my caddie and he further encouraged me. I then made an unbelievable par-save from a tough spot on the first and that really got me going. The string of birdies thereafter added to my confidence.

“Importantly, it was my brother Dinesh Raghuvanshi’s advice that did wonders for me. He is from Pune and thus familiar with this course. He told me to be a little conservative off the tee and not think about hitting it long and then attack the pins with my second shot. I followed his advice and reaped the rewards,” said a confident Mukesh, who won the last PGTI event staged at the Poona Club Golf Course in November 2012.

He added, “It’s a tight course and a three to four under in round four would give me a really good shot at the title. On Sunday, I will look to play safe on the first four holes. If all goes well, I will certainly play an aggressive game thereafter. It will be a contest against the course and not any player in particular.”

Damian Naicker (69-71-67) took a huge leap from overnight tied 10th to tied second as a result of his 67 in round three. His best round of the season featured two eagles besides four birdies and four bogeys. The pro from Johannesburg sank a 12-footer for eagle on the seventh and then drove the green on the par-4 10th before nailing a 20-footer for his second eagle of the day.

Naicker said, “I struck it really well today after the initial bogeys and that created numerous scoring opportunities for me. Playing my first season in India has been a learning experience so far. I got to learn a lot playing alongside the seasoned Mukesh Kumar today. It was a valued lesson on how to negotiate the tough conditions here at the Poona Club Golf Course.”

Angad Cheema (69-68-70), the overnight joint leader, also kept himself in the hunt with a steady 70 despite dropping one spot. Angad eagled the seventh from 20 feet to make the turn at one-under. However, he lost his way somewhat with a double-bogey on the 11th where he found the water and made a three-putt.

Cheema finally recovered ground with two more birdies including one on the closing 18th from 25 feet.

Cheema said, “The double-bogey on the 11th took away the momentum from me. I was not at my best today and struggled a little with the ball-striking as compared to round two. But I’m glad that I’m still very much in contention.”

Delhi’s Shamim Khan (71), the joint overnight leader, shared fourth position with Greater Noida’s Sudhir Sharma (69) and Allahabad’s Samarth Dwivedi (68) at five-under-208.

Last year’s champion Harendra Gupta (68) of Chandigarh was in tied 12th place at three-under-210.

Pune’s Saurabh Bhaduri was in tied 25th at one-over-214 while the other Pune-based professional Sameer M Shaikh occupied tied 43rd place at five-over-218.

Mumbai’s Anil Bajrang Mane was also placed tied 43rd.

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