Chandigarh's Ajeetesh Sandhu wins Golconda Masters title; Shubhankar finishes 2nd

Ajeetesh Sandhu Round 2 leader at Golconda Masters 2016Hyderabad: Chandigarh’s Ajeetesh Sandhu left a lasting impression among golf fans in Hyderabad who saw him dominate the Golconda Masters 2016 from start to finish. Ajeetesh made it a memorable week for himself with his final round of six-under-65 that took his tournament tally to 23-under-261 and helped him finish with a victory margin of four strokes at the Hyderabad Golf Club (HGC).

Gurgaon’s Shubhankar Sharma, the winner at last week’s PGTI event, recorded another brilliant finish as he ended runner-up at 19-under-265 after a final round of three-under-68 at the Rs. 40 lakh event.

Ajeetesh Sandhu (62-68-66-65), who posted a course record nine-under-62 on day one to take a lead that he would never relinquish, carried a one-shot advantage into the final day.

On the first seven holes on Sunday, Ajeetesh and his nearest rival Shubhankar Sharma (66-66-65-68), matched stroke for stroke as both picked up two birdies each with the former hanging on to his slender one-shot lead. Kolkata’s Feroz Ali Mollah, the other contender at the start of the day, dropped out of the race in the early stages courtesy a bogey on the fourth.

The match swung decisively in Ajeetesh’s favour as he birdied the eighth and 11th while Shubhankar conceded a disastrous double-bogey on the 10th where he lost his ball after pushing his drive to the right.

Sandhu’s five-shot lead after the 12th was cut down to three after he had a minor blip with a bogey on 13 even as Sharma gained a shot on 14. However, there was no threat for the leader thereafter and he went on to complete a comprehensive win, his first in over three years, with birdies on the last two holes. Ajeetesh’s final round 65 also accounted for the day’s joint best score.

An ecstatic Ajeetesh said, “I’m glad to finally get over the line after such a long time. It is very satisfying to record a wire-to-wire win. It’s been a special week as I also registered my best tournament score and my best single round score of nine-under in the first round. I would like to thank my friend and fellow professional Muniyappa who lend me his putter for the week. The putter worked for me.

“The birdie on the closing hole in round three was very reassuring as it gave me the lead for the third day running. I kept up the intensity today. The birdie on the fourth today was my best of the week since I landed my tee shot within three feet on that long par-3. Once I birdied the 11th and 12th, I went five ahead with six to play. From there on, I knew, if I just played solid, I would easily negotiate the last stretch.

“As they say winning is a habit, the more you win, the more you get used to it. So now it’s about taking the momentum forward into the forthcoming events including the big week at the Indian Open,” added Ajeetesh, who played a lot of golf alongside the likes of Anirban Lahiri and Ganganjeet Bhullar, during his junior and amateur days.

Ajeetesh took home the winner’s cheque worth Rs. 6 lakh to climb from 14th to third in the 2016 Rolex Ranking as his earnings for the season so far increased to Rs. 7,45,720. Shubhankar Sharma’s runner-up finish moved him up from fourth to second spot in the money list with season’s earnings of Rs. 8,50,000. Feroz Ali Mollah, who finished tied seventh this week, continues to be the Rolex Ranking leader with total earnings of Rs. 10,54,260.

Shubhankar Sharma, looking for back-to-back wins this week, couldn’t catch up with the leader on the final day as he missed some short putts and also dropped a double bogey at a crucial stage.

The Asian Tour rookie said, “I played a decent round but missed a couple of birdie chances from short range and also lost my ball at a critical moment on the 10th. Ajeetesh didn’t make any mistakes today and just took it away on the back-nine.”

Mhow’s Mukesh Kumar posted a final round of 67 to claim third place at 15-under-269. Bengaluru’s Khalin Joshi was a further shot back in fourth.

Chandigarh’s Harendra Gupta, last year’s champion and C Muniyappa of Bengaluru were tied for fifth at 13-under-271. Muniyappa also carded the day’s joint best of 65.

Gurgaon’s Manu Gandas shared the seventh spot with Feroz Ali Mollah at 12-under-272.

Shamim Khan of Delhi secured ninth place at 11-under-273. He too fired the day’s joint best score of 65.