PGTI Eagleburg Masters: Gangjee throws hat in ring in round three with day’s best 65

Rahil Gangjee Afrasia Bank Mauritius OpenBengaluru: Bengaluru-based Rahil Gangjee threw his hat in the ring in round three with the day’s best score of seven-under-65 in the PGTI Eagleburg Masters 2016, here on Thursday. Gangjee thus led by one stroke at 11-under-205.

Two other Bengaluru players, M Dharma (68) and Chikkarangappa S (70), will be chasing the leader on the final day, as the duo ended the penultimate round at 10-under-206 in tied second place.

Rahil Gangjee (68-72-65) took a giant leap from overnight 11th to first place as a result of his error-free 65 to emerge as a major contender for the title. The 38-year-old Gangjee, a former winner on the Asian Tour, began the third round on a positive note, collecting a birdie on the first from three feet.

Rahil, who moved base from Kolkata to Bengaluru just six months back, then went on to sink two monster 30-feet birdie putts on the sixth and eighth and also recovered well from the rough to extract another birdie on the seventh.

But perhaps Gangjee’s best shot of the day came on the 10th where he negotiated an awkward stance in the bunker due to the difficult lie, to land it within inches of the pin for a birdie tap-in. He followed up that sublime effort with two more birdie conversions on the 15th and 16th including one from 15 feet.

“I drained some long putts today and made an excellent recovery from a tough spot in the bunker on the 10th. Importantly, I kept the errors out today. I think the back-nine here has more opportunities and that’s where I’ll look to score in the final round,” said Gangjee, who is playing his first PGTI event of the season.

Rahil, who last won on the PGTI in 2013, added, “Incidentally, I played the practice round along with Chikkarangappa and Dharma and both of them shot scores of six-under that day. The three of us now find ourselves bunched together once again in the final day’s leader group. I expect a tough contest as both Chikka and Dharma are capable of shooting low scores here.”

Gangjee, a winner of three titles, further stated, “The move to Bengaluru seems to be working out well for me. Some of the courses here, including Eagleton, have been kind enough to give me playing rights. So I have multiple places to practice and play. I also get to play alongside some of India’s top professionals here in Bengaluru. The other advantage of being in Bengaluru is that the weather is conducive for golf for most part of the year.”

Chikkarangappa (67-69-70), lying overnight tied second, stayed in the hunt with his 70 on Thursday. An eagle and three birdies ensured he was five-under for the day through 15 holes and looked set for the lead. However, Chikka had a disastrous closing stretch as he bogeyed the last three holes.

“I’ve been struggling with my putting all week. It’s been really frustrating since I’m striking it so well. I’ve missed almost seven or eight putts from within two feet so far this week. The strategy in round four will be to stay calm and hole some putts early in the round so that it gets my confidence going,” said Chikka, who has two wins to his credit at his home course Eagleton.

Dharma (65-73-68), the first round leader, who had slipped to joint seventh place in round two, made a valiant comeback with his third round of 68 that featured an eagle, three birdies and a bogey. Dharma was not at his best with the putter but nonetheless hit all 18 greens in regulation.

Kolkata’s Shankar Das (69) could be the dark horse on day four as he sits two shots adrift of the lead at nine-under-207 in fourth place.

Faridabad’s Abhinav Lohan and Delhi’s Shamim Khan are tied fifth at eight-under-208.

Abhishek Jha of Bengaluru, the round two leader, dropped to tied 20th position at two-under-214 after his third round of 79.