Ashok Kumar beat Shiv Kapur by a solitary stroke to annex his fifth straight title on the Amby Valley PGAI Tour at the Rs 1.5 million Tata Open 2004, played at the Beldih & Golmuri Golf Courses.
The Amby Valley PGAI Tour Money List leader pocketed the winner's cheque of Rs 2,43,000 courtesy a tournament tally of 15-under 267.
The tournament format for the final two rounds had nine-holes played at the Golmuri and nine at the Beldih Golf Courses with the par totaling to 70.
Shiv Kapur, who narrowly missed taking the contest into a play-off when his birdie chip from the bunker on the final hole lipped out, finished with an aggregate of 14-under 268. He had to make do with the runner-up purse of Rs 1,68,000.
Three-time Amby Valley PGAI Tour Order of Merit winner Mukesh Kumar brought in a brilliant final round card of six-under 64 to leap into third position at ten-under 272 while Bangalore's C Muniyappa finished fourth at 275.
The prizes were given away at a prize distribution ceremony immediately after the event. B Muthuraman (MD Tata Steel) announced a Rs 10,000 cash award for Chandigarh's Amritinder Singh, who carded a hole-in-one on day one and a Rs 5,000 award for Patna's Mohd. Nawab, who broke the course record at the Golmuri with an opening day seven-under 63.
Ashok Kumar can be forgiven for worrying over this final putt today. Reason: the inaugural Tata Open in 2002 saw Ashok lose to Mukesh by a stroke and last season, Kolkata's Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia beat him on the second play-off hole.
"On that occasion, I had an even shorter putt to make to tie with Chowrasia which I missed. That played on my mind when I stood over my eight feet putt today but I decided to read the line and hit it. If it had to miss it would. Luckily I made it this time," said the India Cements-sponsored pro, who shot a 66 today.
Ashok, who started the day tied with Shiv, played aggressive golf from the start,birdying the second, fourth, sixth and seventh on the Golmuri course.
He dropped a shot on the ninth and on the drive back to play his back-nine at Beldih enjoyed a one-stroke cushion over his opponent. Birdies on the 12th and 13th increased that gap to three strokes but the 16th hole gave an interesting twist to the script. Ashok's second shot found the left bunker and after chipping on to the green, he three putted. Shiv birdied this hole and the deficit was whittled down to one in Ashok's favour. After a parred 17th, the duo moved on to the final hole, the 72nd of the tournament.
"Shiv was unlucky. His bunker shot was fabulous and deserved to go into the hole, but this is what golf is all about," said the winner, who in early December heads to Melbourne, Australia, to play a million dollar invitational golf tournament.
"I would like to thank Tata Steel for being the wonderful hosts they always are and Mr. B Muthuraman in particular for encouraging me all along," said Ashok Kumar, who has now taken his earnings to a staggering Rs 9,52,000 in just seven week's work on the Amby Valley PGAI Tour.
Shiv Kapur was disappointed. Indeed. Thrice has he finished second in the last three events.
"I gave it my all today, but I guess I was just not destined to win," said the 23-year old.
"When Ashok dropped a shot on the 16th and I birdied to reduce the lead to one stroke, I sincerely believed I would pull it off. That bunker shot nearly went in but that is the way the cookie crumbles. I am really happy for Ashok though. There could be no more deserving a winner," smiled the Asian Games gold medallist.
Shiv's round of three-under 67 included birdies on the third, fifth, seventh and 16th while he erred only once in the form of a bogey on the sixth.
Navtez wins amateur title: Navtez Singh won the amateur title with a tally of 292. He shot a six-over 76 today. Karun Taunk finished second at 309.
SCORES (after 72 holes, par-282): 267 Ashok Kumar(65,68,68,66); 268 Shiv Kapur(64,67,70,67); 272 Mukesh Kumar(70,70,68,64); 275 C Muniyappa(68,68,71,68); 276 Feroz Ali(73,70,68,65), Gurbaaz Mann(66,71,71,68); 277 Sanjay Kumar(70,69,69,69); 278 Shiv Prakash(68,67,73,70), Vijay Kumar(69,65,72,72), Digvijay Singh(66,67,73,72); 279 Mohd. Nawab(63,69,75,72).