CG Open 2015: Ashok Kumar ends five-year victory drought with thrilling playoff win

CG Open 2015 Prize Presentation - Ashok Kumar ChampionMumbai: Delhi’s Ashok Kumar ended his five-year victory drought with a spectacular playoff win at the Rs. 1 crore CG Open 2015. Ashok defeated M Dharma of Bengaluru on the second playoff hole after the two had ended the regulation 72 holes with identical totals of 12-under-268 at the at the Bombay Presidency Golf Club (BPGC).

Delhi’s Honey Baisoya, Noida’s Gaurav Pratap Singh and Abhinav Lohan of Faridabad were joint third at 11-under-269.

Ashok Kumar (69-69-62-68) came back in style after almost blowing away his title hopes on the final hole of regulation play and the first playoff hole. The 32-year-old Ashok, who began the day in tied second place, one behind overnight leader M Dharma (69-67-63-69), missed putts from six to seven feet on the 18th and the first playoff hole, for birdie and par respectively, before converting a tricky six-footer for birdie on the second playoff hole to lift the CG Open title for the second time after 2007.

Earlier in the day, Kumar, the 2007 and 2010 Rolex Ranking champion, capitalized on the first and fourth, both par-5s, with birdies. He also set up a tap-in birdie on the fifth before dropping his first bogey on the sixth. Dharma led by two through six holes after making an eagle, two birdies and a bogey. The lead changed hands on the 10th since Ashok sank his two longest birdie putts from 20 feet and 12 feet on the ninth and 10th while Dharma dropped a stroke on the 10th.

Ashok then missed some short putts to concede bogeys on the 14th and 15th even as Dharma fought back to be all square by the 17th despite mixing two birdies with three bogeys from the 13th onwards. Ashok found the par-5 18th green in two shots in regulation play but three-putted for par while Dharma missed a chip-putt for par on the same hole. Both the players then bogeyed the first extra hole with Ashok making another three-putt. However, Kumar hung on to grab the decisive birdie on the second extra hole from six feet even as Dharma made a par there after finding the bunker twice.

Ashok said, “I’m elated to have won after a five-year gap. This win puts me back in the top bracket and in contention in the Rolex Ranking race. I will now be a different player as I head to the last two events of the season. I would like to thank my good friend and fellow professional Rashid Khan for all his support. He has helped me get my game back on track as he keeps advising me on my short-game.

“I generally play better on the back-nine here but today my putting form deserted me and I struggled with short putts on the back-nine. After missing those opportunities towards the end, I told myself that I had nothing to lose and should just enjoy myself and stay in the present. That’s what kept me relaxed. The fact that I had won at the BPGC in the past also gave me the belief going into the playoff.

“My next big target is to go to the Asian Tour Qualifying School early next year,” added a confident Ashok.

Ashok’s winning cheque of Rs. 15,00,000 helped him leapfrog from 49th place to sixth position in the Rolex Ranking as his season’s earnings now stand at Rs. 18,00,065. Dharma’s second place propelled him from 29th to ninth place. Chikkarangappa S of Bengaluru continues to lead the Rolex Ranking with earnings of Rs. 26,37,440 for the season.

Ashok has numerous triumphs on the Indian circuit but this was his 12th win on the PGTI. He is only second to Mukesh Kumar in the list of PGTI wins. Mukesh has won 16 tournaments on the PGTI so far.

Honey Baisoya (64), Gaurav Pratap Singh (65) and Abhinav Lohan (65) shared third place at 11-under-269. Baisoya’s six-under-64 was the day’s best score and helped him gain 10 positions from overnight tied 13th.

Bengaluru’s Udayan Mane was placed sixth at nine-under-271.

Lucknow’s Vijay Kumar, who was overnight tied second, slipped to tied 14th after his final round of 74.