Shankar Das takes two-stroke lead

Digboi: Defending champion Shankar Das of Kolkata continued to lead on day three of the IndianOil XtraPremium Masters Golf 2011 after he fired a steady one under 71 at the Digboi Golf Links in the third round on Friday.

Shankar’s total score reads nine under 207 after round three. The leader is two shots clear of Delhi’s Shamim Khan, whose five under 67 was the best score of the day. Shankar Das (67-69-71) had a magnificent start as he made birdies on the first three holes.

Das was in scintillating hitting form. His approach shot on the first stopped five feet from the hole, while his tee shot on the second landed a mere three feet from the pin. On the third, Shankar almost drove the green before chipping it to within a foot from the edge. Shankar then missed a couple of chip-putts that led to bogeys on the fifth and 10th.

The 28-year-old hit an excellent shot from 70 yards on the 12th that set up an easy birdie putt. Das suffered a setback when his drive landed in the fairway bunker on the 13th and cost him yet another bogey. Shankar thus ended the day with a one under 71 to hang on to his overnight lead.

Shankar said, “Unlike the previous two rounds, I didn’t make too many chip-putts today and that cost me a few strokes. The important thing is that I still have a two-stroke advantage which I need to build upon in the final round. My game has transformed after I won here last year. I’m mentally tougher now and can shoot a decent score even when I’m not at my best. I’ll focus on sticking to the basics and capitalizing on my lead during round four.”

Shamim Khan (71-71-67) made an eagle, six birdies and three bogeys in his round of 67 on Friday to climb from overnight tied fourth to second place. Shamim’s eagle came on the par-five seventh hole. His second shot landed on the edge of the green on the seventh from where he made a long eagle putt.

Shamim said, “I had a fabulous front nine today as everything was going well for me and I was five under at the turn. However, I had a very ordinary back nine that let me down. Nevertheless, this round has put me in contention and I now need to grab my opportunities in the final round.” Harendra Gupta of Chandigarh, who was overnight second as a result of his second round effort of 64, slipped to third place at six under 210 as he carded a one over 73 on Friday.

Sanjay Kumar of Lucknow is in fourth place at five under 211.