Ashok Kumar and Shiv Kapur will add another chapter to one of the greatest rivalries ever on the Amby Valley PGAI Tour when they lock horns for supremacy in the final round of the Tata Open 2004 golf tournament at the Beldih & Golmuri Golf Courses at Jamshedpur on Friday.
They are tied at an aggregate of 11-under 201 after the penultimate round with Ashok firing a two-under 68 and Shiv a level-par 70.
The tournament format for the final two rounds has nine-holes played at the Golmuri and nine at the Beldih Golf Courses with the par totaling to 70.
Lucknow's Vijay Kumar and Meerut's Digvijay Singh were tied third at six-under 206, while opening round leader Mohd. Nawab (Patna) and C Muniyappa (Bangalore) occupied the tied-fifth position at 207. As many as five golfers were tied seventh at 208, including three-time Amby Valley PGAI Tour Order of Merit winner Mukesh Kumar and two time Indian Open winner ('91 & '93) Ali Sher.
When the second-last group walked in to submit their cards today, Ashok looked visibly disappointed. The 23-year old, who is incidentally looking for his fifth straight Amby Valley PGAI Tour title win had actually not done too badly but compared to the way he had started he had forsaken at least three to four strokes which in the final count cost him the lead.
Ashok's sojourn commenced at the Golmuri Golf Course where the Amby Valley PGAI Tour leader wasted little time in his quest to overtake overnight leader Shiv. Ashok birdied the opening hole but was set back by a bogey on the third.
"On the third, which was a par-3, we had a 40 minute wait and my concentration lapsed. My tee shot faded to the right and from near the root of a tree I could only but bogey the hole," he said.
He made up with birdies on the fifth and seventh and on the half hour bus journey to play the Beldih course sat at a comfortable two-under.
"At this stage, I felt a five or six under for the day was very much on the cards," he said.
This prediction looked like coming true when Ashok birdied the 12th and 13th to go four-under. However, dame luck turned away just for a bit in which period Ashok double bogeyed the 4th and dropped another shot on the following hole.
"On the 14th, my tee shot hit a puddle. I tried to hit my way out but couldn't," he said.
A penalty drop had to be taken which resulted in the double bogey. On the following hole, a shaken Ashok failed to sink a four feet par putt. The birdie on the 16th was hardly a consolation.
If Ashok looked disappointed, his best friend Shiv Kapur was completely demoralized. Shiv, who also teed off at the Golmuri course began with a sea of pars before eagling the seventh. On that occasion, a driver, seven-iron combination left him with a 12 feet putt which Shiv sank. Then disaster struck and pretty much like Ashok, Shiv dropped three strokes in two holes.
The first blow was struck by a bogey on the eighth where Shiv missed an eight feet par putt. Then followed a double bogey where the golfer's seven-iron tee shot found the back wall of a bunker. Shiv hacked out, hit a bad chip and finally went on to two-putt from twenty feet on the green.
Beldih proved lucky for the 22-year-old who birdied the 12th to set up a title clash with his arch rival and best friend.
"I had a terrible day but professional golf is all about putting these things behind you. Tomorrow will be an interesting battle with Ashok," he added.
Navtez Singh shot a level-par 70 to continue to lead the amateur field at four-over 216. Karan Taunk was a distant second at 225.
Scores: (after 54 holes, par-212): 201 Ashok Kumar(65,68,68), Shiv Kapur(64,67,70); 206 Vijay Kumar(69,65,72), Digvijay Singh(66,67,73); 207 C Muniyappa(68,68,71), Mohd. Nawab(63,69,75); 208 Mukesh Kumar(70,70,68), Sanjay Kumar(70,69,69), Ali Sher(68,69,71), Gurbaaz Mann(66,71,71), Shiv Prakash(68,67,73)