Dutchman Lars Van Meijel storms into third round lead; Kartik Sharma is best-placed Indian in tied sixth, four off the lead
Dutchman Lars Van Meijel emerged as top contender after storming into a two-shot lead with an error-free five-under 67 in round three of The Challenge 2023 presented by KGA, a US$300,000 event being played at the Karnataka Golf Association (KGA) course in Bengaluru.
Van Meijel (66-66-67), a winner on the Challenge Tour who was lying overnight third, two shots behind the lead, took his total to 17-under 199 on Thursday to take pole position at the event co-sanctioned by the Challenge Tour and PGTI.
Englishman Alex Fitzpatrick (65-65-71), the overnight leader by one shot, slipped to tied second place at 15-under 201 after returning a 71 in the penultimate round. Swiss golfer Joel Girrbach (69-64-68) posted a 68 to gain two spots and end the day in a share for second place along with Fitzpatrick.
Kartik Sharma (66-67-70) produced a 70, a second straight bogey-free round, to close round three in tied sixth place at 13-under 203, four shots off the lead and thus continue as the best-placed Indian golfer.
Lars Van Meijel birdied three of the opening four holes to get off to the perfect start on moving day in Bengaluru, with two more birdies either side of the turn helping him take control. The 28-year-old from Nijmegen in The Netherlands, landed his irons and wedges within six feet for three of his birdies. Lars also sank an 18-footer from the fringe for birdie on the 14th.
Van Meijel said, “It was windier than the other days. It was in a slightly different direction as well so I had to adjust a little bit, but I started well and just tried to keep on hitting good shots. You need to commit to your shots out here. I was trying to hit the right shots, play smart, make some putts and go from there.
“It would mean a lot to win. I haven’t been in contention a lot lately, so it means a lot to be out there again, feeling the pressure. I’m just going to go out there, enjoy it and try to shoot a low one again.
“I’ve put a lot of effort into my putting lately and it’s showing. The level is so high. You need to be on top of your game to win.”
The 22-year-old southpaw Kartik Sharma, lying tied fourth and three shots off the lead at the start of day three, landed his approach within three feet for birdie on the sixth and found the par-5 11th green in two shots to set up his second and last birdie of the day.
Kartik, who was India’s number one amateur prior to turning pro in 2020, said, “It was a very steady round. Importantly, I have dropped just one bogey in the tournament so far and have kept the errors out.
“Besides the two birdies today, I also made a couple of crucial par saves with some good chip-putts. It’s a very competitive field and I’m aware that I will need very good scoring to get my name on top in the final round.”
India’s Aman Raj (69) also posted a second straight flawless round to end day three in tied eighth place at 12-under 204.
The other Indians in the top-20 were Udayan Mane (69) who was tied 12th at 11-under 205 and Veer Ahlawat (65) and Yuvraj Singh Sandhu (67) who were both a further shot back in tied 19th. Veer’s 65 was the joint best score of the day and lifted him 29 spots.
India’s Honey Baisoya too carded the day’s joint best of 65 to gain 37 spots and be placed tied 22nd at nine-under 207. Honey’s compatriot M Dharma (71) was also in a share of 22nd place.
Round 3 Leaderboard:
199: Lars Van Meijel (NED) 66-66-67
201: Joel Girrbach (SUI) 69-64-68; Alex Fitzpatrick (ENG) 65-65-71
202: Michael Hirmer (GER) 64-71-67; Frederic Lacroix (FRA) 67-66-69
203: Ugo Coussaud (FRA) 68-67-68; Kartik Sharma (IND) 66-67-70
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