Jaipur Open: Priyanshu Singh wins shootout of rookies, defeats Kshitij Naveed Kaul in playoff to register maiden win

Priyanshu Singh WinnerJaipur: In what turned out to be a shootout between two promising rookies and emerging names of Indian golf, Gurugram-based Priyanshu Singh defeated Delhi’s Kshitij Naveed Kaul in a playoff at the TATA Steel PGTI’s Jaipur Open 2019 to register his maiden win.

Twenty-three-year-old Priyanshu, the 2019 PGTI Qualifying School champion, and 18-year-old Kshitij, a winner on the PGTI this season, went into the playoff after both ended the regulation 72 holes with matching totals of 19-under-261 at the Rambagh Golf Club.

While Priyanshu shot a determined five-under-65 on day four, Kshitij produced the best round of the tournament, a spectacular 10-under-60. Priyanshu finally prevailed on the first playoff hole.

The Bengaluru duo of M Dharma (68) and Syed Saqib Ahmed (69) finished joint third at 18-under-262 at the Rs. 30 lakh event.

Priyanshu Singh (65-68-63-65), lying overnight third and three off the lead, was slow off the blocks on Friday as he managed just a birdie and a bogey on the front-nine. It was the birdies on the 11th and 12th that really got him going especially the 30-feet conversion on the latter.

Priyanshu, who attended the University of South Florida and spent some time playing college golf in the United States prior to turning pro, then made a late charge with birdies on the 15th, 17th and 18th to set up the title clash with Kshitij. Singh tapped-in on the 15th after a great approach and played an exceptional bunker shot on the 18th which almost found the hole.

Priyanshu, who also gained experience playing three events on the PGA Tour Series – China this summer, came up with another tremendous bunker shot from almost the same spot during the playoff to set up a two-foot putt for victory even as rival Kaul struggled with his chipping during the tie-breaker and as a result fell short of his second title.

Priyanshu said, “It’s special to win my first title in my rookie season. I’ve had a pretty consistent season so far with a top-5 and two other top-20s already under my belt. I didn’t lead the tournament at any stage this week. So I wasn’t really nervous going into the final stages of the last round and the playoff.

“The long birdie conversion on the 12th was possibly the turning point for me as it got my round going. There was no looking back thereafter as I came pretty close to making eagles on the last two holes thanks to my chipping and putting.

“It was only on the 17th that I found out that Kshitij was leading at 19-under. I then knew that I had to go for a birdie on the 18th. I played two outstanding bunker shots, first on the 18th and then during the playoff (also on the 18th), that saw me through.

“The experience of playing in difficult conditions in China earlier this year helped me a lot as it magnified the things that I needed to focus on in order to improve my game,” added Priyanshu, who had won the PGTI Q School in January this year with an impressive six-shot margin.

Priyanshu’s winning purse of Rs. 4,84,950, lifted him from 29th to 14th position in the TATA Steel PGTI Order of Merit.

Earlier in the day Kshitij Naveed Kaul (68-69-64-60), lying overnight tied 18th and eight off the lead, posted an unbelievable 60 to storm into the clubhouse lead and set the bar at 19-under. Kaul’s flawless round featured eight birdies and an eagle.

Kshitij, who won his first pro title in April this year in Pune, collected three birdies on the front-nine thanks to a couple of long conversions. The former India No. 1 on the amateur circuit then did the bulk of his scoring on the back-nine where he picked up seven more strokes.

Kaul was in great ball-striking form on the back-nine since he landed three of his par-3 tee shots close to the flag and also hit his approach from 270 yards on the 14th within a couple of feet of the pin. He signed off with a birdie-eagle-birdie on the last three holes.

Kshitij, who continued to be in third place on the PGTI Order of Merit, said, “I just wanted to go as low as I could. I played the par-5s and par-3s really well today. I was five-under on the par-5s. I’m delighted to have shot my career-best round of 60 and also my career-best tournament total of 19-under.”

Syed Saqib Ahmed, the round three leader by one shot, slipped to tied third after returning a 69 on Friday.

M Dharma, who was one off the lead in second place after round three, also slipped to tied third after firing a 68 in the last round.

Patna’s Aman Raj (65), the winner of the tournament’s second edition last year, claimed joint fifth place at 16-under-264 along with Delhi’s Shamim Khan (65), the winner of the inaugural edition in 2017, and Mysuru’s Yashas Chandra (66).

Delhi’s Rashid Khan, who continues to enjoy a comprehensive lead in the PGTI Order of Merit with season’s earnings of Rs. 44,46,903, secured 10th place at 14-under-266. He shot a final round of 64.