Bangalore: Title holder Chikka S of India fired a second consecutive six-under-par 66 to move into a share of lead with compatriot Shubhankar Sharma in the penultimate round of the TAKE Solutions India Masters on Friday.
Starting the round two shots off the pace, Chikka fired seven birdies against a lone bogey to tie overnight leader Sharma, who battled to a 68, on a three-day total of 19-under-par 197 at the Eagleton-The Golf Village.
The leading duo hold a three-shot advantage over fellow countryman Himmat Rai, who settled for third place following a 69, while Australian Jake Stirling returned with the day’s lowest round of 64 to take fourth on 201 at the US$120,000 Asian Development Tour (ADT) event.
Finland’s Teemu Putkonen (65) and local prospect Aditya Bhandarkar (66) shared fifth on 202 while four other players, including Order of Merit leader Casey O’Toole of the United States and Indian ace Rashid Khan, stayed a further shot back in tied-seventh position.
Chikka, who is chasing for a repeat home success, hopes to take things in his stride when he heads into the all-important final round.
“I kept the ball in play. I hit it good like how I did for the past two days and I putted really well. I am very happy with the way I played but there is still one more day to go. If I can play like how I played in the first three rounds tomorrow, I should have a good chance of winning,” said the 22-year-old Chikka.
“I’ll stick to my game plan tomorrow. There will be no change. It was great playing with Himmat (Rai) and Shubhankar (Sharma). We were just enjoying ourselves and appreciating the good shots out there. It will be interesting tomorrow. I am looking forward,” added Chikka.
Sharma got off to a quick start with two opening birdies before stumbling with bogeys on fourth and sixth. He recovered brilliantly with four more birdies on seventh, 13th, 17th and 18th to keep himself in the lead.
“Overall, I think I played well. I made a few mistakes at the start but managed to steady the ship. I am pleased with the way I finished as that allowed me to stay atop the leaderboard with Chikka. I just want to play my own game tomorrow and not think too much. We will see how it goes,” said the 19-year-old Sharma.
Stirling, who did not get to play a practice round, was delighted to cap his best efforts so far this week after marking his card with 10 birdies against two bogeys.
“The putter was hot today, especially on the front nine. It went quiet on my back nine but I still managed to finish off well. It’s my first time playing in India. I only arrived on Wednesday so I didn’t manage to get a practice round. I am really pleased to shoot a 64 today,” added the 26-year-old, who claimed his maiden ADT win in Malaysia earlier in June.
With the Olympic Games looming in 2016 where golf will be reintroduced as a medal sport, players in the region could earn their spots in Rio de Janeiro by earning OWGR points through the Asian Tour and ADT.
The ADT is celebrating its sixth season where it has grown immensely from five events in the first year in 2010 to a record 27 tournaments in 2015.
For more information on the ADT, please visit www.asiandevelopmenttour.com
Leading third round scores:
197 – Chikka S (IND) 65-66-66, Shubhankar SHARMA (IND) 65-64-68
200 – Himmat RAI (IND) 64-67-69
201 – Jake STIRLING (AUS) 70-67-64
202 – Teemu PUTKONEN (FIN) 68-69-65, Aditya BHANDARKAR (IND) 69-67-66
203 – Casey O’TOOLE (USA) 68-69-66, Rashid KHAN (IND) 65-70-68, Naman DAWAR (IND) 66-69-68, Greg MOSS (USA) 62-70-71
204 – Khalin JOSHI (IND) 67-69-68, N. THANGARAJA (SRI) 65-70-69