Mukesh Kumar continues to hold advantage despite sedate 72

Mukesh Kumar Round 3 leader TAKE ClassicAhmedabad: Mukesh Kumar of Mhow continued to hold the advantage in round three of the inaugural TAKE Classic despite a sedate even-par-72 that saw his lead being cut down to two shots at the Kalhaar Blues & Greens in Ahmedabad. Mukesh’s three-day total read 11-under-205 at the Rs. 50 lakh event.

Chandigarh’s Ajeetesh Sandhu, who shot the third day’s best score of six-under-66, is likely to be Mukesh’s biggest challenger on the final day. Sandhu closed the penultimate round in second place at nine-under-207.

Earlier in the day, round two, incomplete due to the rain on Thursday, was completed by 9 am. Mukesh Kumar held a four-shot lead at 11-under-133 at the halfway stage. Udayan Mane occupied second at seven-under-137. The cut went at five-over-149 with 51 players making it to the money rounds.

Mukesh Kumar (68-65-72) struggled to match his effort from the previous two rounds on a day that was characterized by bright sunshine and the absence of rain in sharp contrast from the last two days. The 52-year-old veteran’s three birdies were accompanied by an equal number of bogeys as his putter went cold.

Mukesh, who has three top-5s this year including a win in Kochi, had a horrid time on the par-5 12thwhere he found the water with his second shot and as a result dropped a bogey.

Mukesh said, “I didn’t putt as well as round two and also didn’t make as many greens in regulation. I also made an error in judgment by attacking the green on the 12th instead of playing safe.

“The missed chip-putt on the 18th turned out to be quite expensive. Had I made that for par, a three-shot lead would’ve been ideal going into the last round.

“It’ll now be about summoning all my experience on the final day and striking the ball much better than today. I’ve never won at Kalhaar, so I want to set the record straight.

“To be honest, the younger players such as Ajeetesh and Udayan, have a better chance than me as they hit it longer than me and that counts a lot on this course. So I feel, if I win tomorrow, I wouldn’t have won without help from them.

“I’m also very keen on winning the PGTI Order of Merit title which I last won nine years back in 2008. A tournament win here would pave the way for my Order of Merit ambitions,” added Mukesh, who currently occupies fifth position in the PGTI Order of Merit.

Ajeetesh Sandhu (72-69-66), lying tied eighth and eight shots off the lead after round two, worked his way up to second place after a determined 66. Ajeetesh, who like Mukesh, also has a win and two other top-5s to his credit this season, produced a strong front-nine with four straight birdies from the third to the sixth.

He added three more birdies on the back-nine at the expense of a solitary bogey to emerge as a major contender for the title.

Ajeetesh, currently third on the PGTI Order of Merit, said, “The good start and finish was the key for me today. I began with some decent par-saves on the first two holes that helped me grow in confidence. Thereafter, the four birdies in a row got me back into the match. That’s when I was expecting to shoot a really low number. But I lost some momentum in the middle stages.

“I’ve made a gradual progression in the tournament and that’s been very encouraging. I had a slow start with an opening round of 72. But it kept getting better from thereon with a 69 in round two and now a 66. I think the recent experience of playing in harsh weather conditions in Japan helped me endure the wet conditions here on the first two days.

“My focus on the last day will be to play my own game and not try to overpower the course,” added Ajeetesh, who won on the PGTI earlier this year in Hyderabad.

Sri Lankan N Thangaraja and Bengaluru’s Udayan Mane struck scores of 70 and 72 respectively to be tied third at seven-under-209.

Delhi’s Honey Baisoya (71) and Anura Rohana (72) were a further shot back in tied fifth.

Delhi’s Chiragh Kumar was tied 10th at two-under-214 while Shamim Khan (Order of Merit leader), another Delhi golfer, occupied tied 14th place at one-under-215.

Panchkula-based Shubhankar Sharma was tied 24th at three-over-219 while Bengaluru’s Khalin Joshi was tied 33rd at five-over-221.