Kolkata: Sri Lankan N Thangaraja was rewarded for producing the day’s best effort of five-under-67 as he grabbed a share of the third round lead at the Kolkata Classic on Thursday. Thangaraja was joined by Bengaluru golfer Khalin Joshi, who struck a three-under-69 in round three, in tied first place at seven-under-209 at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC).
Ajeetesh Sandhu of Chandigarh matched Thangaraja’s day’s best of 67 to jump into contention in third place just one shot behind the joint leaders at the Rs. 30 lakh event.
Eighteen-year-old Feroz Singh Garewal, another Chandigarh-based professional, achieved the rare distinction of making consecutive eagles during round three.
N Thangaraja (71-71-67), who began the day in tied eighth, threw his hat in the ring with an error-free 67 at one of his favoured venues. The Colombo resident, fresh from a tied sixth finish at last week’s Indian Open, hit his short-irons and wedges with pin-point precision on Thursday to leave himself four birdie putts within four feet.
“I came to Kolkata with a lot of self-belief having finished inside the top-10 at the Indian Open. What added to my confidence was the fact that I had also done well at the RCGC in the past having posted low scores at the Tour Championship here in 2013 and 2015. I struggled to read the green speed on the first two days but today I read it well and thus put up a low number,” said Thangaraja, a winner of two titles on the PGTI.
The ever-smiling Thangaraja had worked as a tailor in one of the many factories that are a part of Sri Lanka’s thriving garment industry before he took to golf. Thanga, plying his trade on the PGTI for the last four years, has now established himself as a force to reckon with on the circuit. He joins a long line of Sri Lankans such as Anura Rohana, Mithun Perera & K Prabagaran who have not only tasted success in India but also been the driving force for growth of golf in Sri Lanka.
“I aspired to play on the PGTI after seeing my countrymen Anura & Mithun perform well in India and make a good living out of it. Over the last four seasons, I have grown as a player playing on the PGTI. I now believe that I’m ready for the Asian stage after a top performance in the tough field at the Indian Open. I will look to make further improvements in my game this year before once again trying to qualify for the Asian Tour,” added Thanga, who missed out on qualifying for the Asian Tour earlier this year.
Khalin Joshi (71-69-69), also a winner of two titles on the PGTI, made a move from overnight tied fourth to joint first thanks to a timely 69. Joshi landed his wedges within a couple of feet for two birdie tap-ins on the front-nine. He also recovered well from the bunker wall to birdie the 15th after a 20-feet conversion.
Joshi, who had led midway through the final round of last year’s Tour Championship at RCGC before finishing runner-up, said, “I haven’t been closing tournaments well over the last six months. I need to do that on Friday. I’ll need to keep my swing in tempo and just focus on my own game rather than looking at the leaderboard.”
Ajeetesh Sandhu (71-72-67), the winner of PGTI’s last event in Hyderabad, will also be a contender on the final day. He made an outstanding eight birdies during his third round, a record for the week so far, to rise from tied 10th to third at six-under-210.
Ajeetesh said, “I was inside the top-25 at the Indian Open last week despite a four-over start in round one. It was heartening to come back strongly and end the week at six-under. I’m in a good space at the moment, especially after the win in Hyderabad, and would like to make an impact at the Kolkata Classic as well.”
Round two leader Feroz Ali Mollah of Kolkata dropped to tied fourth after his third round of 75. Bengaluru’s C Muniyappa and Gurgaon’s Shubhankar Sharma shared fourth place with Feroz at five-under-211.
Reigning Indian Open champion and local lad SSP Chowrasia scored a 74 to end the day in tied 35th at four-over-220.
Teenager Feroz Singh Garewal produced one the highlights of the day when he achieved one of the rarest feats in golf. He sank back-to-back eagles on the eighth and ninth. What made his achievement even more special was the fact that both his eagles were eagle-twos that came on par-4s.
Garewal had just dropped a triple bogey on the sixth but he came back strong when he holed out from 135 yards on the eighth. He then came up with another unbelievable second shot from 165 yards on the closing ninth that once again found the hole.
Garewal said, “It was unbelievable. I just wanted to keep playing after the second eagle even though I knew my round was over.”
He ended the day with a 73 to be placed tied 39th at five-over-221.