M Dharma enjoys two-shot cushion ahead of final round at CIAL Cochin Masters

M Dharma Round 3 leader CIAL Cochin Masters presented by PGTIKochi: Bengaluru’s M Dharma posted a steady one-under-71 at the CIAL Golf Club on Friday to move into a two-shot lead in round three of the CIAL Cochin Masters presented by PGTI. Dharma’s total stood at seven-under-209 on the penultimate day of the Rs. 60 lakh event. Sanjay Kumar of Lucknow, who shot the day’s best of four-under-68, occupied tied second place along with Kolkata’s Feroz Ali Mollah at five-under-211.

M Dharma (72-66-71), the overnight joint leader, emerged as the sole leader on day three after a sedate but solid round of 71. Dharma had a slow start to the third round. He made pars on the first four holes before making a brilliant recovery from the rough to add another par on the fifth. However, he wasn’t as lucky on the sixth where he found the hazard and as a result dropped a shot.

A 12-feet birdie conversion on the seventh brought the 29-year-old back to level par for the day. But an ordinary wedge shot on the ninth saw Dharma slip back to one-over. The former winner on the PGTI had a far better back-nine. He sank a 15-feet birdie on the 11th before finding the green in two on the par-5 16th where he picked up another shot.

Dharma said, “I stuck to my routine today. I didn’t try anything spectacular since the conditions were tough. The course was soft due to yesterday’s rain and the wind also came into play. The par-3s required four-iron and five-iron shots today.

“I decided to just hang in there after my first bogey on the sixth. I was delighted to have hit all greens on the back-nine despite the wind picking up on that stretch. The birdie on the 16th was crucial as it gave me a decent lead.

“I just need to keep my calm and repeat my swing in the final round in order to stay in contention. As scoring has not been easy this week, I think hitting an under-par round on the final day could set me up for a win,” said Dharma, who lost in a playoff in Mumbai last December after leading in round three.

Sanjay Kumar (73-70-68) earned the reward for shooting the day’s best score of 68 as he climbed up from overnight tied ninth to tied second place. Sanjay made six birdies against two bogeys on Friday. His birdies included three long putts from a range of 15 to 20 feet.

Feroz Ali Mollah (70-68-73), the overnight joint leader, slipped to tied second after his third round of 73.

Om Prakash Chouhan of Mhow was fourth at four-under-212 while the fifth spot was shared between Delhi’s Vikrant Chopra, Sudhir Sharma of Meerut and Jaipur’s Vishal Singh at three-under-213.