In one of the most exciting duels on the Amby Valley PGAI Tour, Ashok Kumar clinched a nail-biting victory in the Rs 10-lakh Hyundai-MGC Open, at the par-70 Madras Gymkhana Golf Links in Chennai on Saturday.
After erasing a two-stroke deficit half-way through the final round, Ashok nosed ahead by the 16th, thanks to a bogey by Madaiah, who till then held sway.
On the final hole Ashok erred on his tee shot and landed in the left rough while the Bangalore lad was dead middle on the fairway about 50 yards ahead. From there, Ashok made a superb par, while Madaiah's birdie putt kissed the lip from the left, thus avoiding a play-off.
With this win, the Delhi lad ended a 10-month title drought, the last one coming in November, at the Tata Open in Jamshedpur. He also walked away with a handsome cheque of Rs 1,58,200 for his commendable victory.
Ashok finished with a four-round total of 16-under 264.
Mukesh, despite a fighting final round of four-under 66, courtesy a 15-footer birdie on the 18th, had to settle for the second place along with Madaiah, both finishing a stroke behind the winner.
C Muniyappa finished fourth at 266 while Vijay Kumar was fifth at 267. The Ali brothers -- Feroz and Rafick were tied for the sixth place at 270. L Selvadurai of ONGC won back-to-back titles, claiming the amateur honours with a total of three-over 273.
Ashok Kumar, who had dominated the `Southern Swing' of the Amby Valley PGAI Tour 2004-05 season, winning five consecutive titles, was determined to attack from the word go on Saturday. The 24-year-old missed a two-footer birdie putt on the opening hole that could have brought him par with the leader Madaiah.
Both went hammer and tongs till the eighth, where Madaiah going left of the fairway, further pulled his second shot and ended up with a bogey. Ashok nullified it on the next hole making a bogey.
Madaiah held a two-stroke advantage till the par-3 11th. Both Ashok and Madaiah reached the par-5 12th in two with the former converting the eagle while the latter made a birdie and the lead was cut to a solitary stroke. Madaiah, in an attempt to reach the green on the par-4 14th, was pin high on the right but was in deep rough. A bogey was only what he could manage as Ashok chipped to four-feet and made a birdie to restore parity.
Madaiah lost a stroke on the 16th from 75 yards and Ashok grabbed the opportunity to take a one-stroke lead, which he sustained till the finishing hole.
"It was a bit frustrating as I was in the reckoning on a number of occasions and saw the title slip away. But today, luckily my putts sank and I did not have any problems," said Ashok after winning his first title of the Amby Valley PGAI Tour 2005-06 season.
"I was a bit wary that Madaiah was in the fairway. Hence I decided to attack rather than play a safe shot on the final hole," admitted the champion.
Mukesh Kumar, who had opened with a round of 1-over 71, played like a true champion. Coming into the reckoning after two superb rounds of 66 and 62, Mukesh began two strokes adrift of the leader. With two consecutive bogeys on the second and third, and one more on the fifth, everybody had written Mukesh off. However, four birdies in five holes brought him back into the game and the long birdie putt on the finishing hole put him in the second place.
Top scores (after 72 holes) Pros: 264 Ashok Kumar (Del) (65, 66, 67, 66); 265 Mukesh Kumar (Mhow) (71, 66, 62, 66), S Madaiah (B'lore) (65, 68, 64, 68); 266 C Muniyappa (B'lore) (65, 68, 66, 67); 267 Vijay Kumar (Lucknow) (71, 62, 68, 66); 270 Rafick Ali (Kol) (69, 66, 68, 67), Feroz Ali (67, 67, 66, 70); 271 Vinod Kumar (Del) (68, 70, 66, 67); 272 Nabin Mondal (Kol) (66, 68, 68, 70), SSP Chowrasia (Kol) (67, 67, 65, 73); 273 Harinder Gupta (Chd) (73, 70, 63, 67); 275 Sheeraz Kalra (Lucknow) (68, 69, 69, 69), Matloob Rana (Pak) (68, 68, 69, 70), Sankar Das (Kol) (70, 67, 69, 70); 277 Yusuf Ali (Kol) (70, 69, 69, 69), Indrajit Bhalotia (Kol) (70, 68, 68, 71). Amateurs: 283 L Selvadurai (ONGC) (75, 68, 68, 72); 301 R Prithviraj (76, 70, 78, 77).