Kolkata, 23 Dec 2017

Rashid – Shubhankar face off in final round of McLeod Russel Tour Championship 2017

Rashid Khan cards third straight 67 to extend lead to two; Shamim Khan shoots day’s best 66, on cusp of sealing Order of Merit title

It’s going to be a face-off between Indian golf’s young guns, Delhi’s Rashid Khan and Chandigarh’s Shubhankar Sharma, in the final round of the Rs. 1.5 crore McLeod Russel Tour Championship 2017.

The 26-year-old Rashid, a two-time Asian tour winner, extended his lead to two shots in round three of the PGTI’s year-end championship as a result of his third straight five-under-67 that took his score to 15-under-201 at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC).

Twenty-one-year-old Shubhankar Sharma, fresh from his recent win on the European Tour, carded an error-free 67 that saw him rise from third to second place at 13-under-203. He is likely to be the most serious challenger to Rashid as the rest of the field is another five shots behind.

Shamim Khan of Delhi, the current PGTI Order of Merit leader, carded the day’s best score of 66 to climb 11 spots to tied fifth at seven-under-209. Shamim is now on the cusp of winning his second PGTI Order of Merit crown as his nearest rivals on the money list, Ahmedabad’s Udayan Mane and Sri Lankan Anura Rohana, are placed 10 and seven shots behind him respectively.

Rashid Khan (67-67-67), the overnight leader by one, enjoyed yet another solid start as he sank three birdies on the first five holes. He stumbled in the middle with consecutive bogeys on the sixth and seventh but rallied with a fabulous back-nine that featured four birdies.

The wiry Khan, the reigning PGTI Order of Merit champion, had a lucky break on the 15th where his second shot was heading out of bounds but bounced on the cart path and landed behind the bunker enabling him to make an up and down for birdie. Rashid also closed the round in style with his third 15-footer birdie of the day.
Khan said, “I started well once again and that got my rhythm going. A bad lie on the sixth and the ball catching mud on the seventh resulted in bogeys. But thereafter I kept trying to hit the greens to create chances. That worked out well for me as I birdied the 11th and got back in the groove.

“Playing five-under on all three days is fantastic. I couldn’t have asked for more. I’m making most of the putts and that’s been the key for me this week. It’ll be a tough fight with Shubhankar as he’s playing really well and is high on confidence. I’ll have to work hard for the win as nothing comes easy at the professional level.”

Shubhankar Sharma (66-70-67) came back roaring after a sedate second round. Shubhankar, who was hitting it better and finding more fairways on Saturday as compared to round two, picked up three birdies on the front-nine and two more on the back-nine.

Sharma, the youngest Indian winner on the European Tour, had a 12-feet eagle putt on the 15th which he missed narrowly. He ended the round on a high with a 25-feet birdie conversion on the 18th.

Shubhankar said, “It struck it much better today. My putting was decent but still not as good as the first day. I need to give myself more chances on the greens. Importantly, I managed to keep the errors out today.

“I feel the stretch between the 14th and the 17th is really good for scoring. So those holes could be decisive in the final round.

“Even though there is tough competition between us, Rashid and I have enjoyed playing together over the last two days. There is less stress in the group as we enjoy each other’s company on the course.”

Gurgaon-based Veer Ahlawat moved up from overnight tied sixth to tied third after posting a 68 that featured an eagle-two on the 16th where he drove the green and made a 30-footer.

Veer shared the third spot with Bengaluru’s Rahil Gangjee (73) at eight-under-208. Gangjee slipped one spot from his overnight second position.

Shamim Khan (66), staring at his second PGTI Order of Merit win after 2012, was tied for fifth along with Chandigarh’s Ajeetesh Sandhu (69) and Patna’s Aman Raj (70) at seven-under-209.

Local favourite SSP Chawrasia (72) was tied 10th at five-under-211.

Kolkata rookie Viraj Madappa is all set to win the PGTI Emerging Player of the Year title. Viraj, placed tied 12th at four-under-212, is currently six shots ahead of Karandeep Kochhar, his nearest rival in the Emerging Player race. 
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