Mukesh Kumar’s class act helps him bag his second title at PGTI Cochin Masters

Mukesh Kumar Cochin MastersKochi: Indian golfing giant Mukesh Kumar of Mhow produced a class act, a bogey-free five-under-67, in the final round of the PGTI Cochin Masters presented by CIAL Golf Club, to come home the victor by one shot at 12-under-276.

Mukesh thus gave his preparations for next week’s Panasonic Open in Japan a major boost. It was a record 19th PGTI win for Mukesh and his second in Kochi after 2015.

Sri Lankan Anura Rohana claimed the runner-up spot at 11-under-277 after his final round of two-under-70 at the Rs. 40 lakh event.

Mukesh Kumar (70-68-71-67), lying overnight tied third and two off the lead, made a determined start with two birdies on the first six holes followed by an astonishing par-save on the seventh where he recovered from the water hazard and sank a 20-footer.

Mukesh began closing the gap with leader Rohana on the back-nine. He landed his approach shots within two feet on both the 10th and 13th to make birdies and thus take a share of the lead. Kumar went ahead when Anura dropped a bogey on the 14th.

The winner of over 120 titles finally sealed it with a birdie on the 16th followed by an excellent par-save from over the green on the par-3 17th. Mukesh’s 67 also happened to be the day’s best score.

Mukesh, also a winner on the Asian Tour, said, “I was quite confident from the start of the round. I knew I play better when I’m not in the leader group as the pressure is less and one doesn’t think too much about the leaderboard.

“When I landed it in the water hazard on the seventh but still managed to save par from 20 feet, I knew it could be my day. After making birdie on the 13th I realized that I was tied for the lead with Anura. That spurred me on as I attacked the pins and went on to make another birdie on the 16th.

“I’ve really enjoyed playing here at the CIAL Golf Club. I was quite upset at missing the cut last year after winning in 2015. I was therefore eager to win this year. This win will now encourage me to raise my game further at next week’s Panasonic Open in Japan which is an Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour co-sanctioned event,” said Mukesh, who won his last title at the Asian Tour’s Panasonic Open India in Delhi in December.

Mukesh, who took home the winner’s cheque worth Rs. 6 lakh, has now climbed from 11th to fourth position in the PGTI Order of Merit. Mukesh, who is currently 51 years and eight months of age, also broke his own record of being the oldest player to win on the PGTI. He set the record with his last win on the PGTI in October 2016 when he was 51 years and two months old.

Anura Rohana (70-70-67-70), the overnight joint leader, slipped to second place on Saturday after shooting a 70 that featured four birdies and two bogeys. Rohana was looking good at three-under after the first eight holes but then dropped bogeys on the ninth and 14th to concede the lead to Mukesh.

The turning point of the day was probably when Anura’s bunker shot just stopped at the lip of the hole on the 16th and thus denied him a crucial eagle for a share of the lead. He couldn’t catch up with Mukesh thereafter.

Chandigarh’s Harendra Gupta, the other overnight joint leader, ended the week in third place at nine-under-279 after his final round of 72.

Om Prakash Chouhan (68) of Mhow clinched fourth place at seven-under-281.

Last year’s champion Feroz Ali Mollah (73) of Kolkata finished tied 23rd at two-over-290.