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Harinder grabs lead in Airtel Open
February 17, 2005 21:27 IST
Harinder Gupta has taken a liking to the challenging Bombay Presidency Golf Club course.
A fortnight ago, the Chandigarh lad had shot a 10-under par score playing for his sponsors HSBC. Today, he fired nine birdies to return a card of seven-under 63 to take a two-stroke lead over his compatriot Ranjit Singh at the end of the penultimate round in the Airtel Open, the 14th leg of the Amby Valley PGAI
Three-time champion golfer of the year Mukesh Kumar also made his move, submitting a card of four-under par 66 to be placed third with a 54-hole total of 205 while Uttam Singh Mundy was tied for the fourth place along with overnight leader Feroz Ali at 207.
Jaiveer Virk is sixth at level-par 210 while Vijay Kumar is in the seventh position at 211.
Harinder who suffered a strain in his thigh muscle last evening, limped his way during the round. But it was not that important for the moment as the 22-year-old went in a clinical way making birdies one after another. Even though he began with a bad drive on the opening hole, the Chandigarh lad made a birdie, holing an eight-footer. But his real onslaught began from the par-5 fourth when he made a 25-footer left to right for his second birdie of the day. He did not stop until he had saved a stroke each on the next four holes to make it five-in-a-row.
Meanwhile, Feroz Ali, leading by two stokes, dropped shots on consecutive holes to fall behind as Harinder continued his march. SSP Chowrasia, who had logged a card of six-under par 64 in the second round, failed to check his iron-play and paid the price shooting seven-over for the day. Harinder's pick of the lot was on the par-4 seventh where he chipped-in from the edge after he had overshot the green. After saving a great par on the difficult par-4 ninth, Harinder took the turn at 5-under for the day.
A driver-pitching wedge approach saw the Chandigarh Golf Club pro sitting for a four-feet birdie putt on the par-4 11th. With a bogey on the 15th where he three-putted, Harinder then made a birdie on the easy par-5 16th, despite going over the green. A sandy birdie on the finishing hole was a fitting end to his majestic round.
"I have been hitting the bal well. Only the results were not showing," said a delighted Harinder, who hit 15 greens-in-regulation and made 27 putts for the day even as the other players struggled on the fast greens.
Ranjit Singh, playing along with Harinder, made birdies on the fourth and seventh, the latter with a 30-footer. However, with a bogey on the last hole of his front nine, the 29-year-old was just one-under for the day. Successive birdies on the 11th and 12th put him back on track but only till the 15th where he double-bogeyed from being in the centre of the fairway.
Making amends with a birdie on the 16th, Ranjit sank a 15-footer left to right eagle putt on the 18th to finish the day at four-under.
"I am still ruing at the double bogey on the 15th," said Ranjit, who made 28 putts for the day. "I think two strokes makes a huge difference in a course like the unpredictable BPGC," he added.
Meanwhile, Mukesh Kumar played an almost perfect round but for the bogey on the 16th where he overshot the green and failed to make up and down. The Mhow-based had a solitary birdie (fifth) on his front nine while firing four on his back nine - 10th, 12, 14th and 18th.
"I will surely go for a win" said Mukesh who had come back from a five-stroke deficit to win the DHL Challenge at the same venue two years ago.
With just two strokes separating the leaders, the last day could be a pulsating affair.
Top scores (after 72 holes) (Pro): 202_Harinder Gupta (70,69,63); 204_ Ranjit Singh (67,71,66); 205_ Mukesh Kumar (70,69,66); 207_ Uttam Singh Mundy (71,68,68), Feroz Ali (67,68,72); 210_Jaiveer Virk (70,69,71); 211_Vijay Kumar (69,72,70); 212_BG Lalith Kumara (71,71,70), Yusuf Ali (71,70,71), Arjun Singh (69,71,72).
Amateurs: 238_Mehul Rastogi (80,77,81).