Young Indian golfer S Chikkarangappa gave himself a long shot at the Indian Open 2019 with the day’s best card of six-under 66 to be placed an impressive tied sixth at the demanding DLF Golf & Country Club in Gurgaon on Saturday.
Chikka, who came within a whisker of grabbing his maiden Asian and European title in Mauritius last year, was five shots behind overnight leader Julian Suri and Callum Shinkwin of England, who is looking for his first won on the European Tour.
Two-time European Tour winner Shubhankar Sharma grinded out a hard-fought one-under-71 to move up four places to tied-15th at three-under-213 and was next best Indian after Chikka.
Among other Indians, Rashid Khan (72) was tied 21st at two-under 214 and SSP Chawrasia (71), who lamented his cold putter and two three-putts, was one-over 217 at tied 47th spot.
Other Indians are Ajeetesh Sandhu (73) at tied 54th, Gaurav Pratap Singh (73) at tied 59th, Gaganjeet Bhullar (72) at tied 63rd and Rahil Gangjee (77) at tied 66th.
Chikka, who looks up to fellow Bengalurean Anirban Lahiri, was par for the first two rounds and is now six-under for 54 holes. He is five behind Suri, whose father is Indian, and Shinkwin, who is playing on a sponsor’s invite. They are tied at the top at 11-under.
In between Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura, who recovered from a triple bogey on the eighth, shot a five-under 31 on back nine in a card of four-under 68, is third at nine-under, while veterans Stephen Gallacher (67) and 49-year-old Robert Karlsson (73) are fourth and fifth respectively.
Chikka is part of a five-player bunch at tied sixth alongside James Morrison (69), George Coetzee (74), Matthias Schwaab (70) and Mikko Korhonen (70). They are all at six-under 210.
With as many as 10 players within five shots off the lead, the Hero Indian Open 2019’s final day is poised for an exciting finish after a tense play-off last year.
Chikka (74-70-66) has had a recent coach change as he has started working with Laurence Brotherbridge, who is at Oxford Golf Club in Pune.
Since November last year he has seen a career revival and the last five months have seen him win two events on the PGTI. He was also the runner-up in Mauritius, which helped him seal his card in Asia for 2019.
Chikka had a dream start with birdies on the first, second and fourth. He added four more birdies on the ninth, 10th, 11th and 13th and was seven-under when he got to the 17th, where he dropped his only bogey of the day.
“I started really well and that set the tone for the rest of the day. My ball striking was right up there as I hit almost all greens in regulation and found all fairways. The putting was also sharp,” Chikka said after a profitable day.
“I will take seven birdies and a bogey on this golf course any day. This is my best round at this course and almost feels like a course record. I’ve been in good touch since late last year and that helped my confidence coming into this tournament. I just feel good about all aspects of my game at the moment.”
Shubhankar recovered well after an early double-bogey on the second to shoot a brave 71. He came up with five birdies and two bogeys between the fifth and 18th to close the day with a respectable score.
“I should have done way better on the front nine, which is better for scoring. But a double on second and a bogey on Par-5 eighth messed up things, but I played well on back nine. I need a quick and good start on Sunday to make a charge and see how far I can get,” he said.
Suri, playing in just his second event of the season after surgery on an abdominal hernia, has showed no signs of rust and was making serene progress before he stumbled on the 18th.
He birdied first and second and then again eighth and ninth, but in between dropped shots on third and seventh. There were birdies on 10th and 15th, but also a bogey on 14th and a double on 18th.
“I think a couple of mistakes that I made today were after long waits on the tee box and that was quite a long wait on 18,” he said.
“No excuses, totally my fault, and I need to compose myself better and I think that is a bit of a learning curve for me after being out of golf for a while now. I am feeling good with my overall game despite the 18th.”