A resolute Jyoti Randhawa put himself in title contention by climbing to the tied second spot but it was heartbreak for veteran golfer Gaurav Ghei who was disqualified under bizzare circumstances on day three of the USD 2.5 million Johnnie Walker Classic in Gurgaon on Saturday.
Randhawa turned in a four-under 68 studded with five birdies against a bogey in the penultimate round to take his total to 13-under 203. The local favourite trails sole leader and his tee off partner today, Taichiro Kiyota (67) of Japan, by one stroke.
Randhawa, who has been playing non-stop for the past seven weeks, could have been atop the leaderboard but for an eventful par-five final hole.
A rather aggressively hit drive landed in a non-playing area and Randhawa was given a free-drop. Although he did well to chip it back into the greens, the chance of picking up a shot and going into the lead had been blown away.
But far from ruing it, Randhawa said he considered himself lucky to have got away by saving par after the disastrous drive.
"I was a bit lucky. I hit two bad shots and was almost certain to get a bogey but managed to save par on the 18th. I messed up but recovered well. I hope I can be better tomorrow," he said.
The local favourite also blamed his waywardness on the fatigue that has come with playing non-stop. Randhawa admitted that he was pushing his body hard.
"Quite a few weeks have gone by. Your mind doesn't focus. But that's what I have learnt. I have never gone this far. I am pushing myself and enjoying. I will see how far my body and mind goes," Randhawa said.
However, it was agony for Gaurav Ghei who carded a sensational seven-under 65 only to be disqualified later for a mistake made unknowingly yesterday.
The 39-year-old player was penalised for moving the ball on the 18th green during the second round after the matter was brought to tournament referee John Paramor's attention by one of his assistants early this morning.
The incident occurred yesterday at the 18th hole when the ball moved because of Ghei putting his club behind the ball to assess the line after having taken a relief from the cart path.
"...it was just before the chip shot on to the 18th green ," Paramor said.
A dejected Ghei, who had climbed to tied third on the leaderboard today, left the course immediately after being broken the news.
"It's deeply disappointing and it's a shame that all the people around and the referee did not spot the incident near the 18th hole," he said in a brief statement before leaving.
Among the other Indians in the fray, Shiv Kapur was tied for the seventh spot after squandering a good start to turn in a 72, that took his total to 10-under 206.
The overnight leader stuttered after a first-hole birdie to drop a shot on the second before recovering with a couple of birdies on the fourth and sixth.
The recovery was short-lived as he dropped shots on the seventh and ninth to make the turn even-par.
The backward journey turned out to be no better as he bogeyed the 12th and 13th before making another recovery with back-to-back birdies on 14th and 15th.
His rollercoaster ride continued thereafter as well and he first dropped a shot on the 17th before managing to save himself from going over-par with a final hole birdie.
Further down, Jeev Milkha Singh had another ordinary day, carding a second successive two-under 70. The Chadigarh golfer was tied for the 12th spot along side the Orlando-based Arjun Atwal (67) with a total of eight-under 208.
Rahil Gangjee (70) and Mukesh Kumar (70) shared the 21st position with a total of seven-under 209.
A stroke adrift was Arjun Singh at the tied 44th spot after carding a one-over 73.
Digvijay Singh, who also returned a one-over 73 was tied for the 48th at four-under 213.
Gaganjeet Bhullar (73), at two-under 214, and Rahul Ganpathy (74), at even-par 216 were tied 52nd and 64th respectively.
Defending champion Anton Haig of South Africa was tied 40th and virtually out of contention despite turning in a 69 that took his total to five-under 211.
Leading scorers after Round 3:
Taichiro KIYOTA 68 67 67 -14 (202)
Jyoti RANDHAWA 70 65 68 -13 (203)
Mark BROWN 71 68 64 -13 (203)
Graeme STORM 70 66 69 -11 (205)
Phillip ARCHER 72 64 69 -11 (205)
Greg CHALMERS 68 69 68 -11 (205)
Scott STRANGE 71 67 68 -10 (206)
Shiv KAPUR 69 65 72 -10 (206)
Daniel VANCSIK 67 71 68 -10 (206)
Raphael JACQUELIN 72 68 67 -9 (207)
Vijay SINGH 70 68 69 -9 (207)
Adam BLAND 69 68 71 -8 (208)
Scott LAYCOCK 72 68 68 -8 (208)
Scott BARR 71 70 67 -8 (208)
Tony CAROLAN 71 69 68 -8 (208)
Paul SHEEHAN 68 70 70 -8 (208)
Jeev Milkha SINGH 68 70 70 -8 (208)
Arjun ATWAL 69 72 67 -8 (208)
James KAMTE 68 71 69 -8 (208)
Kane WEBBER 73 69 66 -8 (208) .