Mukesh Kumar, the undisputed champion of the Hero Honda Indian Golf Tour, performed a jack-in-the-box act for the second week in a row when he mounted a late charge and won the Rs One million DHL Challenge, at the Bombay Presidency Golf Club, on Friday.
In the most unique event on the Indian Tour, Mukesh brought in nine points on the final day to tally 26 points over 72 holes, three strokes better than runner-up Yusuf Ali of Kolkata.
This was Mukesh's tenth victory in 2002-03 season. He is now just one title away from the all-time record of 11 wins in one season, set by Basad Ali in 1990-91 season.
He has also made a record of sorts by winning all six events that have been held at the BPGC course since 2000-01 season.
Yusuf collected five points on the final day, as overnight leader Ashok Kumar and Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia wilted on the back nine of the tricky BPGC course. Ashok finished third at +22, while Chowrasia was fourth at +20.
Kolkata's Feroz Ali shot the best round of the tournament -- a +14 -- that helped him vault up the leaderboard and finish tied fifth with Shamim Khan of Delhi at +18.
Feroz, who made eagles on the fourth and 16th holes, could have posed a serious challenge to Mukesh if not for his five bogies on the back nine. The victory was worth Rs 1,62,000 for Mukesh, while Yusuf was richer by Rs 1,12,000.
The DHL Challenge was played on the modified stableford format, the first time such a format has been employed on the Indian Tour. A par is worth 0 points, a birdie +2, an eagle +5 and an albatross +8. On the other hand, a bogey is worth -1 point, double bogey -2, a triple bogey -3 and so on.
The pro-am will be played on Saturday, and the star attraction would be tennis star Leander Paes, who recently won the Australian Open mixed doubles title with the legendary Martina Navratilova.
"I am delighted to have successfully defended my title. Given the format, I knew I had a chance and all I needed to do was make birdies. The moment I made a birdie on the 15th and saw both Ashok and Chowrasia bogeying that hole, I knew no one can stop me," said the 36-year-old pro from Mhow.
Mukesh made birdies on all par-5 holes - the first, fourth, 16th and 18th -- and had two more on the 12th and 15th holes. Bogies on the ninth, tenth and 17th couldn't really make much of a difference. "The format was very interesting and I am already looking forward to the event next year," he added.
Yusuf looked off colour in the front nine but caught fire in the back with four birdies that helped him to +5 for the day. Ashok looked solid in the from nine as he made three birdies, including a near hole-in-one on the eighth, where he hit his 6-iron tee shot to less than two inches. But the back nine was forgettable for the youngster.
Leading scores (after 72 holes): +26 _ Mukesh Kumar (+7+4+6+9); +23 _ Yusuf Ali (+6+0+12+5); +22 _ Ashok Kumar (+12+7+1+2); +20 _ Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia (+10+8+3-1); +18 _ Feroz Ali (+6-5+4+13), Shamim Khan (+5+5+3+5); +14 _ Digvijay Singh (+3+1+3+7); +12 _ Amit Dube (+2+9-1+2); +11 _ Rafiq Ali (-2+3+5+5); +10 _ Devendra Patel (+7+2+1+0), Uttam Singh Mundy (-2+8+3+1); +9 _ S Madaiah (-1+4+2+4); +7 _ Vivek Bhandari (-2+4+0+5); +9 _ Mohd Islam (+2+5+2); +6 _ Gaurav Ghei (+5-5+7-1), Bhoop Singh (+4+5-4+1).