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LOCAL LAD Shubhankar Sharma slipped to the third spot as Patna’s Aman Raj seized the lead with the day’s best score of five-under-67 at the end of the third round in the TAKE Open Golf Championship at Chandigarh Golf Club on Saturday. The 22-year-old Raj, adjudged the PGTI Emerging Player of the Year in 2016, leads Sharma by two shots with an overall score of nine-under-207 while Chandigarh golfer Akshay Sharma lies second with a score of eight-under-208. Sharma’s overall score at the end of the third round was seven-under-209.
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. 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 the tied 46th spot after the first round to tied fifth in round two to leader in round three. Aman, India’s top-ranked amateur in 2015, produced a bogey-free round to set the stage for a shot at his maiden title.
The Patna-based professional 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. “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 hole where I found myself first in the trees and then in the rough but still managed to extract a birdie,” said Aman at the end of the day’s play.
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. “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,” said Akshay.
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 circuit is the most experienced in the leading pack. 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 following his 75 after the third round.