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Chandigarh, 14 Oct 2017

Aman Raj seizes round three lead at TAKE Open with day’s best 67 as young guns dominate leaderboard

Chandigarh boys Akshay Sharma & Shubhankar Sharma in hot pursuit

The penultimate round of the TAKE Open Golf Championship saw a new leader emerge in the form of Patna’s Aman Raj who seized the initiative with the day’s best score of five-under-67 at the Chandigarh Golf Club on Saturday. The 22-year-old Aman Raj, the 2016 PGTI Emerging Player of the Year, now leads the Rs. 1 crore event by one shot at nine-under-207.

The Chandigarh duo of Akshay Sharma, at eight-under-208, and Shubhankar Sharma, at seven-under-209, will be chasing the leader on the final day as the two golfers closed the third round in second and third place respectively.

The leaderboard had an extremely young look to it as 18-year-old rookie Karandeep Kochhar, another Chandigarh-based golfer, occupied tied fourth place at six-under-210 along with Gurgaon-based 21-year-old Veer Ahlawat.

Four of the top five are 22 years and below in age while Akshay is the oldest at 27. The 21-year-old Shubhankar is the only among the five to have tasted success at the professional level.

Aman Raj (73-67-67), helped by advice from his father Shashi Raj Sinha, a former professional himself, worked his way to the top of the pack with successive rounds of 67 after a disappointing opening 73. It was a gradual rise for Aman from tied 46th in round one to tied fifth in round two to leader in round three. Aman, India’s no. 1 amateur in 2015, produced a bogey-free round to set the stage for a shot at his maiden title.

The Patna-based professional, currently ranked 15th on the PGTI Order of Merit, thanks to four top-10s in the season, made two early birdies on the second and third and followed that up with three in succession on the 11th, 12th and 13th. Four of his five birdies came as a result of conversions from 10 to 12 feet. 

Aman, playing his second season as a professional, said, “My hitting got better after round one and that’s the reason I posted two scores of 67 thereafter. I could’ve been in trouble today had I missed my eight foot par putt on the opening hole. So that par save was crucial. I also made a good curling par putt from six feet on the last hole which has given me a lot of confidence ahead of the final round.

“My best birdie came on the 13th where I found myself first in the trees and then in the rough but still managed to extract a birdie.

“I’ve been sending video clips of my rounds and practice sessions to my father Mr. Shashi Raj Sinha. Through this week, my father has been analyzing my game with the help of the video clips and has been giving me feedback. His inputs have been a major contributing factor to my performance this week.

“Round four will be all about repeating the same things that I did in rounds two and three. The Chandigarh Golf Club course is not easy to negotiate. One has to plan a round well and grind it out. That’s what I’ll look to do.”

Akshay Sharma (71-68-69) moved up from overnight tied third to second place after his third round of 69. Akshay, 35th in the PGTI Order of Merit with one top-10 in the season, made a mammoth 30-feet birdie conversion on the third but dropped back to even-par for the day with a bogey on the sixth.

Akshay then set up a couple of tap-in birdies on the eighth and 13th courtesy some quality iron-play. He made a final push with a birdie on the 16th to close the day one shot adrift of the lead.

Akshay said, “I played a very steady round. I was driving it well and found most fairways and greens. I also made some great recoveries whenever in trouble. I definitely feel I’ll have the advantage of playing at my home course during the final round. I know what club to play where. However, reading the greens would still be tricky. I will look to play regulation golf and not be too aggressive.”

Shubhankar Sharma (68-70-71), dislodged from the lead for the first time in the tournament, slipped to third after a round of 71. The Asian Tour regular and winner of four tournaments on the PGTI is the most experienced in the leading pack and hence a major contender, come the final day.

Karandeep Kochhar (69) and Veer Ahlawat (70) lie tied fourth and three off the lead. Karandeep’s 69 helped him gain five spots on Saturday while Veer’s 70 pushed him up one position.

Sujjan Singh (71) in tied eighth at four-under-212 was the fourth Chandigarh professional in the top-10.

Divyanshu Bajaj of Kolkata, the joint second round leader, dropped to tied 11th at three-under-213 after his 75 on day three.

Jyoti Randhawa (69) also took a share of 11th place. Rashid Khan (72) was tied 15th at two-under-214.

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