Shankar Das moves into pole position in penultimate round with day’s best 66

Shankar Das Round 3 leaderAhmedabad: Kolkata’s Shankar Das produced a timely six-under-66 to grab the third round lead at the Kensville Open 2017 presented by PGTI. Das went one ahead as his three-day total moved to 12-under-204 at the Kensville Golf & Country Club in Ahmedabad on Thursday.

Noida’s Amardip Sinh Malik, the overnight leader, closed the penultimate round in second place at 11-under-205 having posted a score of 69.

Delhi’s Himmat Singh Rai (69) was placed third at nine-under-207 while Chandigarh’s Ajeetesh Sandhu (67) occupied fourth place at eight-under-208.

Shankar Das (68-70-66), trailing by two shots and placed tied third at the halfway stage, shot the day’s best score of 66, to emerge as the leader and top contender for the title. The experienced 33-year-old, a winner of six titles on the PGTI, birdied the opening hole to set the ball rolling on Thursday.

His only blemish of the day was the bogey on the fourth after which he went on to claim six birdies including two on the last two holes.

Das said, “My driving wasn’t great, but my approach shots and short game were quite good today. The birdie on the first was a sign for me that I might play well today as I had bogeyed my opening holes on the first two days and didn’t end up playing that well. Most of my birdies were from a range of six to seven feet.

“I closed the round really well with birdies on the last two holes. The highlight of my round was the 20-feet birdie conversion on the 18th. It gave me the lead and the momentum going into the final round. I’m quite excited about the prospect of playing in the final day’s leader group after a long time.

“It’s more important to find the fairway here rather than hit it long. Once you’re on the fairway you double your chances of scoring. I feel all departments of my game are in much better shape at the moment and that’s the reason I’m in contention once again. I’ll look to play steady tomorrow and get myself in a good position to go for the title,” added Shankar, who will be looking to end a two-year victory drought on Friday.

Amardip Sinh Malik (69-67-69), who registered his only win on the PGTI almost three years back, conceded his lead on Thursday but continued to be in the title race. The 32-year-old Malik led the field for a major part of round three as he was four-under for the day through 12 holes. But the bogey on the 13th put the brakes on his round. He then made pars on the last five holes to remain in contention.

Malik said, “If someone gave me a three-under at the start of the round today, I would’ve happily taken it. So I’m quite pleased with today’s effort. I had a slow start having bogeyed the third but came back well with three straight birdies thereafter. That got my round going. Regardless of the bogey on the 13th I closed it out well with some solid pars on the final stretch.

“I’ll play to my plan on the final day by trying to create maximum scoring opportunities. I’ll see if I have to reassess my approach on the back-nine but that depends on the situation.

“I’m happy with all aspects of my game. I thought my current score of 11-under would have won the tournament, but now that 12-under is leading after three days, the number in my mind is 15-under which could give me a good chance of winning.”

Himmat Singh Rai kept himself in the hunt with a strong back-nine where he scored three birdies on the last five holes. He trails the leader by three shots heading into round four.

Ajeetesh Sandhu, the runner-up last week, produced a creditable 67 to be placed fourth, one shot behind Rai.

Allahabad’s Samarth Dwivedi, the round one leader, was in fifth place at seven-under-209 while Noida’s Gaurav Pratap Singh, who shot a 66 in round two, was a further stroke behind in sixth place on Thursday.

The two local amateurs, Varun Parikh (four-over-220) and Anshul Patel (11-over-227), were placed tied 37th and 61st respectively.