CG Open 2015: M Dharma edges ahead with a 63 on penultimate day

M Dharma Round 3 leader CG Open 2015Mumbai: Bengaluru’s M Dharma put himself in position for a second title as his seven-under-63 handed him a one-shot lead in round three of the Rs. 1 crore CG Open 2015. Dharma’s total score read 11-under-199 at the end of the penultimate round at the Bombay Presidency Golf Club (BPGC). Delhi’s Ashok Kumar and Vijay Kumar of Lucknow shot the week’s joint best scores of eight-under-62 to be one stroke adrift of the leader in tied second.

M Dharma (69-67-63), who started the day in tied 11th, zoomed to the top of the pack after his valiant effort in round three which featured eight birdies and a solitary bogey. The 29-year-old, who won his first and only title so far, two years back in Jamshedpur, was off to a flying start on Friday with birdies on the first two holes. Dharma, placed 29th in the Rolex Ranking, found the fringe in two shots on the par-5 1st to set up birdie before sinking a 20-footer on the second.

Dharma collected four more birdies on the front-nine after landing his short-irons within two feet on the fourth, fifth and ninth and within five-feet on the eighth. The Bangalorean’s progress slowed down as he missed a short birdie putt on the 10th and then found the trees on the 14th to drop his first shot of the day. But Dharma, whose season’s best finish was fifth place in Digboi in November, rallied with a 10-feet birdie putt on the 15th and a closing birdie on the 18th for his best score of the week.

“I’m extremely pleased with today’s effort. My ball-striking was the highlight of the round as I landed so many shots close to the pin. I followed my routine and placed the ball really well for my approach shots. I capitalized on three out of the four par-5s with birdies. I was particularly thrilled about making a fantastic recovery on the par-5 fourth. I found the trees on the fourth but still managed to extract a birdie there thanks to a brilliant third shot,” said Dharma.

He added, “I was five-under through 15 holes in round two but two bogeys at the end derailed my round. I changed my approach today and instead of using driver on the last three holes, I used the three-wood. That helped me finish well. I’ll look to shoot at least four-under in the final round as that will give me a realistic shot at the title. I’ve had a decent year so far but not a good one, however, winner here could change everything.”

Dharma is not going to have it easy on day four as the seasoned duo of Ashok Kumar (69-69-62) and Vijay Kumar (70-68-62) lie just one shot behind him at 10-under-200. Ashok and Vijay, playing partners in round three, fired bogey-free rounds of eight-under-62 each, the week’s best score, to climb from tied 19th to tied second. The week is crucial for both golfers to ensure their cards as Ashok lies 49th in the money list while Vijay is outside the top-60 in 88th place.

Ashok Kumar bagged four birdies each on the front-nine and back-nine and tapped-in from a range of four feet and less on five occasions. It was his best score of the season. The 2007 CG Open champion is confident of his chances going into the final round.

“I have a great record at BPGC, having won two professional titles here including the CG Open as well as two amateur and one junior title. I love playing here and will look to use that to my advantage in round four,” said Ashok.

Former Indian Open champion Vijay Kumar, another multiple winner at BPGC, also produced his best effort of the season, to move into contention

Vijay said, “I knew if I kept making regulations, the birdies would come sooner rather than later. I’m playing with new irons and that’s helped me. It’ll be fun if I can post a similar score in the final round.”

Round one leader Udayan Mane of Bengaluru will be another challenger on the final day as he occupies fourth place at nine-under-201 thanks to his third round of 66.

Four players, the Chandigarh duo of Ajeetesh Sandhu and Sujjan Singh, Om Prakash Chouhan of Mhow and round two joint leader Mandeo Singh Pathania of Greater Noida were bunched together in tied fifth at eight-under-202. Ajeetesh Sandhu also shot the week’s best of 62 courtesy a chip-in eagle, seven birdies and a bogey.

Chandigarh’s Abhijit Singh Chadha, the overnight joint leader, slipped to tied 22nd at three-under-207 after his third round of 74.