Chouhan’s second win at TATA Open ends his four-year title jinx

Om Prakash Chouhan WinnerThe 17th TATA Open 2018 provided a fitting finale to the fiercely competitive 2018 PGTI season. Om Prakash Chouhan of Mhow, Madhya Pradesh, kept a calm head on an action-packed day to prevail by one shot after firing a rock-solid two-under-69 at the par-71 Golmuri Golf Course in Jamshedpur on Sunday.

Chouhan finished with a total score of 20-under-264 at the Rs. 1 crore event and thus ended a four-year-long title jinx. It was the Mhow lad’s fifth professional title and his second win at the TATA Open. Incidentally, he registered his last win at the 13thTATA Open 2014.  

Bengaluru’s Chikkarangappa had the honour of shooting the day’s best score, an eight-under-63 that helped him finish runner-up at 19-under-265. Chikka had a fabulous closing stretch as he sank birdies on his last four holes.

While Bengaluru’s Khalin Joshi had already sealed the PGTI Order of Merit title with earnings of Rs. 62,81,340 before the start of the 17th TATA Open 2018, this week’s tournament decided second place on the merit list which went to Kolkata’s Viraj Madappa who had earnings of Rs. 46,17,097. Notably, Madappa did not play the Jamshedpur event. Chikkarangappa’s runner-up finish this week, helped him clinch third place on the money list with earnings of Rs. 44,01,435.

Mysuru-based 23-year-old Yashas Chandra, who missed the cut at Jamshedpur, won the PGTI Emerging Player of the Year race. His season’s earnings of Rs. 13,26,493 was the highest among the rookies by a long distance. Chandra had nine starts in the season and posted two top-5 finishes. His best result was fourth at the CG Open 2018.  

Om Prakash Chouhan (63-67-65-69), leading by one over Delhi’s Rashid Khan after round three, struck an early blow in round four with a birdie on the first. However, that was neutralized by his bogey on the next hole.

The 30-year-old Chouhan then got back to the process of rebuilding his round with a 15-feet birdie conversion on the fourth and another birdie on the ninth that came as a result of a brilliant 2-iron approach shot.

A three-putt bogey on the 10th had Om Prakash in a spot of bother as Rashid Khan drew level with him on the next hole for the first time during the final round. But ‘OP’ as Chouhan is fondly referred to, once again surged ahead after driving the green on the par-4 12th which set up another birdie for him. The gap widened on the 12th as Rashid dropped a double-bogey there and couldn’t recover thereafter.

OP, who was nurtured by stalwart Mukesh Kumar, another Mhow-based golfer, in the early stages of his career, then missed a few short birdie putts but kept his nerve to come through despite the late charge by Chikkarangappa. OP’s exceptional chip shot from over the green on the 18th hit the flagstick and led to a tap-in for par that saw him home. He thus bagged the winner’s cheque worth Rs. 16,16,500 to move up from 10th to fourth place in the Final PGTI Order of Merit standings. His earnings for the season stood at Rs. 40,69,844.

Chouhan said, “The turning point today was the birdie on the 12th. I was feeling the pressure on the 12th tee as Rashid had caught up with me. But after I birdied that hole and Rashid made a double-bogey there, I felt quite at ease. I knew I just had to keep playing regulation from there on.

“Chikka did come close towards the end but I only got to know his score when I was going to chip to set up a par on the last. Chipping is the strongest part of my game so I was quite confident of landing it close on the 18th. That’s exactly what I managed to do.     

“I owe this win to my brother Deepak who also caddies for me. He has always helped me get my game back on track with his sound advice. Last night Deepak told me to play my game, not think too much about the others and shoot at least a two-under which he felt would be good enough to win. He was proved right as I won with a two-under.

“I was out of form for a long time due to a shoulder injury. In order to make up distance off the tee which I had lost due to the shoulder injury, I altered my golf swing to make it faster. But recently my brother Deepak advised me to go back to my original swing. That move paid off and I thank my brother for that.

“It’s great to win the TATA Open for the second time. I now look forward to an even better 2019 season.”

Chikkarangappa (66-67-69-63), who was one-over through three holes, sank nine birdies thereafter and got himself in the mix. Two of his last four birdies were a result of long conversions. He thus climbed seven places from his overnight tied ninth.

Noida’s Amardip Malik came up with a flawless 66 which featured four birdies on the last six holes. He clinched third place at 18-under-266.

Delhi’s Rashid Khan, the leader in the first two rounds, slipped from overnight second to fourth after a final round of 71. Khan, seeking a second title in two weeks, was all square with the leader till the 11th but his challenge faded away with the double-bogey on the 12th. His total for the week read 17-under-267.

Bengaluru’s Khalin Joshi (66), the 2018 PGTI Order of Merit champion, finished 10th at 14-under-270.