Shillong: The second edition of the Chief Minister’s Meghalaya Open Golf looks set for a photo-finish as the penultimate round on Saturday saw a three-way tie for the lead between Chandigarh’s Harendra Gupta, Om Prakash Chouhan of Mhow and Kolkata’s Shankar Das at six-under-204.
While Gupta shot the tournament’s best score of six-under-64 to make his way to the top, Om Prakash Chouhan and Shankar Das returned scores of 66 and 68 respectively to end up as the joint third round leaders at the scenic Shillong Golf Club.
Delhi’s Honey Baisoya posted a 67 to be one off the lead in fourth place at five-under-205 at the Rs. 40 lakh event.
Harendra Gupta (71-69-64), lying overnight tied eighth, five off the lead, fought his way into contention with an error-free 64. Gupta, a winner on the PGTI earlier this year, picked up two early birdies on the first and fourth before accelerating with an eagle-birdie on the 10th and 11th thanks to two medium range putts from seven to 12 feet on the tricky greens.
Harendra further consolidated with a fabulous drive on the par-4 17th which landed next to the green and led to another birdie.
Gupta said, “This round came at the right time for me as I’m in the process of recovering from a neck injury that has troubled me for long. The injury had hampered my swing. But things are better now after a lot of physiotherapy.
“I was solid today with 16 greens in regulation. My putting was also quite consistent. I almost drove two par-4 greens. A repeat of today’s effort in the final round would be just perfect for me.”
Om Prakash Chouhan (69-69-66), fresh from his runner-up finish in Kolkata last week, too jumped into the fray on the third day courtesy a 66 that featured an eagle, four birdies and two bogeys.
Chouhan, lying three off the lead in tied fourth at the halfway stage, was even-par through the front-nine in round three before striking it rich with three birdies and an eagle between the 10th and the 17th.
Om Prakash looked good for the sole lead after his eagle-two on the 17th where he chipped-in from 40 yards. However, a three-putt for bogey on the 18th meant he had to settle for the joint lead.
“My confidence had been up since the runner-up finish in Kolkata where I actually also finished as the best professional. I’ve been working on my putting stroke and its paid dividends this week.
“I registered my last win two years back so I’m really eager to notch a win. My wife Sheetal has played a huge role in motivating me to get back to my best once again.
“It’s going to be a tough contest in the final round as Harendra and Shankar are both very experienced players. I’ll need to play a special round if I have to beat them,” said Chouhan.
Shankar Das (70-66-68) gained one position from his overnight second place after a steady 68. Shankar was even-par through 12 holes before he narrowly missed a hole-in-one on the 13th for the second straight day. He salvaged a birdie there.
Das closed the round on a high after sinking two crucial putts on the last two holes, the first a six-footer for birdie and the second from three feet for par.
Shankar said, “I’ve been focusing on my short-game of late as that was the reason for my recent slump in form. The short-game has been sharp so far this week. It’s now about being patient and creating chances in the final round.
“The conversion of those last two putts has put me in the right frame of mind ahead of the final round. Those putts were not easy but I made them and that’s given me the self-belief to win as this might just be my week.”
Honey Baisoya was two-over till the turn but rallied with an eagle and three birdies on the back-nine for his 67. He would’ve also ended up sharing the third round lead had he not missed a short birdie putt on the 18th. Baisoya had to be content with fourth place going into the final day.
Bengaluru’s M Dharma (70) was a distant fifth at one-under-209.
Second round leader Amardip Sinh Malik of Noida slipped to tied sixth at even-par-210 after his third round of 75.
Local professional Jeevan Sharma (74-73-70) closed the day in tied 35th at seven-over-217.
The other two Shillong-based professionals, Bishnu Chettri (12-over-222) and Gautam Lama (17-over-227) were placed tied 47th and 56th respectively.
Leading Scores after Round 3 (54 holes):
204: Harendra Gupta (71-69-64), Om Prakash Chouhan (69-69-66), Shankar Das (70-66-68)
205: Honey Baisoya (70-68-67)
209: M Dharma (70-69-70)