After the favourites cornered the glory on the first two days, unfancied Vinod Kumar shot into a one-stroke lead at the end of the penultimate round in the Rs One million prize-money Hero Honda Open West 2005 at the Poona Club Golf Course on Thursday.
In an eventful round, the 24-year-old fired eight birdies, missed four eagles and made four bogeys to submit a card of four-under 67 for a 54-hole total of 10-under 203.
Overnight leader Mukesh Kumar was off-colour in registering a card of one-under par 70.
But it was Bangalore lad S Madaiah who set the course on fire with a superb round of eight-under 63 and shattered the course record of seven-under to be placed third.
Arjun Singh played a level-par round of 71 to be in the fourth spot while Ranjit Singh and Vijay Kumar were tied for the fifth place.
Gurbaaz Mann was seventh at 208 while Gaurav Diwan and Shiv Kapur shared the eighth position with a total of 209.
Vinod Kumar, who has led only once during the Hero Honda Open South three years ago, will have to hold his nerve to win his first title on the Amby Valley PGAI Tour.
Making an ominous start by shanking his tee shot, the Delhi Golf Club pro made a bogey. A similar shot on the third hole ensured that he was two-over after three holes. However when he hit form, Vinod was unstoppable as he chased the greens with ever-growing hunger for birdies.
Driving the 351-yard par-4 fifth, he missed eagle from 20-feet, but registered his first birdie of the day and went on to birdie the next two holes as well, missing another eagle on the par-5 seventh from just 10 feet. The youngster missed another eagle on the ninth after driving the 348-yard hole.
Vinod who has been playing well in this tournament, which forms the 13th leg of the Amby Valley PGAI Tour 2004-05 season, made consecutive bogeys on the 11th and 12th when he three-putted from about 15 feet. However, with four birdies in the last five holes, Vinod walked in the club house as the leader.
The most significant one amongst them was on the 15th where he was in the jungle on his tee shot and rolled the ball to within three feet for a birdie.
"I am hitting the ball well especially my driving," said Vinod. "I am thrilled to be the leader after a long time. My game plan would be to play my natural game," said Vinod, who hit 15 greens and made 32 putts.
Mukesh Kumar, adopted a defensive approach which actually proved a deterrent to his game. Missing a par-putt from four feet, the 36-year-old incurred a bogey on the fourth. He set right the blemish by making successive birdies on the next two holes.
After a birdie on the 10th, Mukesh made a bogey on the penultimate hole to finish the day at one-under par 70.
"I am upset with my putting. I don't know whether I will be able to break the jinx at this course," said Mukesh.
Meanwhile, Madaiah, who was level-par after 36 holes, warmed up a bit late as he began his birdie spree on the par-3 fourth when he sank a 15-footer, downhill putt and repeated the act on the next hole as well.
After a driver-3 iron approach on the par-5 seventh, the 23-year-old from Karnataka Golf Association sank a 25-footer for an eagle. With another birdie on the ninth, Madaiah took the turn at five-under.
Beginning his back nine with a birdie, he added two more to his kitty on the 12th and 14th. After narrowly missing the water hazard on his drive on the 15th, the Bangalore lad rolled the ball but fell short of the green. To add to the misery, he three putted for a bogey.
Over-clubbing on the second shot on the par-4 17th led to another bogey on the penultimate hole. However, he sank a testing 12-footer on the tricky 18th to make his seventh birdie of the day and thus break the course record.
"I have been playing well but somehow not been able to convert into good scores. I am thrilled to have set a record for myself too," said Madaiah after firing his career-best round.
Pros (after 54 holes): 203_Vinod Kumar (69,67,67); 204_Mukesh Kumar (69,65,70); 205_S Madaiah (73,69,63); 206_ Arjun Singh (68,67,71); 207_Ranjit Singh (68,68,71), Vijay Kumar (69,66,72); 208_ Gurbaaz Mann (73,65,70); 209_Gaurav Diwan (73,69,67), Shiv Kapur (70,69,70); 210_ Digvijay Singh (70,68,72); Ashok Kumar (69,68,73).
Amateurs: 213_Jaideep Patwardhan (69,74,70); 221_Tarun Gogle (73,74,74).