Chennai, 03 Mar 2018

Lankans dominate as Mithun Perera races into three-shot lead ahead of compatriot N Thangaraja

Veer Ahlawat fires day’s best 63 to climb to third

Day three of the Chennai Open 2018 Golf Championship at the Madras Gymkhana Club Golf Annexe in Guindy witnessed Sri Lankan domination with the top two players on the leaderboard belonging to the island nation.

Mithun Perera hogged the limelight with a five-under-65 that saw him race into a three-shot lead ahead of fellow Sri Lankan, his close friend and room partner for the week, N Thangaraja (68). Perera’s total read 14-under-196 after the penultimate round.

Gurgaon-based Veer Ahlawat fired the day’s best score of seven-under-63 to gain 13 places and end the day in third place at 10-under-200.

Mithun Perera (68-63-65), who was part of the three-way lead at the halfway stage along with N Thangaraja and Noida’s Vikrant Chopra, fired a second consecutive bogey-free round on Saturday to break away from the rest of the field.

Perera and Thangaraja matched each other shot for shot till the 13th as both were three-under for the day. Mithun, who last won a title four years back, had set up three birdie putts from a range of four feet on the first 13 holes.

But the tide really began turning 31-year-old Perera’s way when he knocked in a 15-footer for birdie on the 14th to take the outright lead. Thereafter, it was one-way traffic as Thangaraja three-putted the 16th for bogey and Mithun tapped-in for another birdie after an unbelievable tee shot on the par-3 17th to build a three-shot cushion.

Perera said, “I made more regulations today and got a little lucky with the putts on the back-nine. I didn’t give the others any chances to catch up with me. I’m delighted to have shot a second successive bogey-free round. I’ve dropped just one bogey so far in this tournament. That is a good sign I feel.

“Importantly, I made good of the chances that came my way, while Thanga, my closest competitor, missed out a few.

“I feel the turning point today was the 16th hole where Thanga bogeyed and gave me a two-shot lead. I then played the tee shot on the 17th with a relaxed mind as there was less pressure. As a result, the shot turned out to be my best of the tournament since it landed three feet from the hole despite the wind.

“I’ll now look to repeat the same effort in the final round in order to end my four-year long victory drought,” added the five-time winner on the PGTI.

N Thangaraja (61-70-68) dropped out of the lead for the first time this week after a patchy two-under-68 in round three. Thanga was three-under until the 15th but then bogeyed the 16th to allow fellow Colombo resident Perera to gain a foothold at the top.

Veer Ahlawat’s flawless 63 took him from overnight tied 16th to third, four off the lead, thereby helping him rise into contention. Twenty-one-year-old Ahlawat, who posted top-10s in the last two PGTI events, enjoyed his outing on the greens with quite a few long birdie conversions including one from 30-feet on the 16th. Veer, yet to win his first title, was rock-solid on Saturday as was evident from his 17 greens in regulation.
Defending champion Mukesh Kumar (69) of Mhow, 2017 PGTI Order of Merit champion Shamim Khan (68) of Delhi and Noida-based Vikrant Chopra (70), the joint round two leader, all ended the day in tied fourth at nine-under-201.

Bengaluru’s Mari Muthu made two eagles during his round of 66 that placed him tied seventh at seven-under-203.

The only Chennai golfer to make the cut, rookie Shivnaren Srinivasan (70-69-72), returned a 72 to occupy tied 34th place at one-over-211.

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