Chikkarangappa’s come-from-behind victory at Gujarat Open

AHMEDABAD: Bengaluru’s Chikkarangappa took centre-stage on Friday as he shot a solid final round score of four-under-68 to earn a remarkable come-from-behind win at the Gujarat Open Golf Championship 2021 Presented by Gujarat Tourism being played at the Kalhaar Blues & Greens Golf Club in Ahmedabad.

The 27-year-old Chikka, a two-time winner on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) and an Asian Tour regular, ended the week at the Rs. 30 lakh event with a winning total score of nine-under-279 to emerge triumphant by three shots and register his 13th win on the PGTI. It was his 14th career title.

Kolkata’s Viraj Madappa fired the last day’s best score of seven-under-65 to finish runner-up at six-under-282.

Om Prakash Chouhan, the leader for the first three days, who was ahead by a comfortable five-shot margin at the start of the final round, carded a disastrous six-over-78 which saw him drop to tied third in the final placings at five-under-283.

Delhi’s Sachin Baisoya (68) and Kolkata’s SSP Chawrasia (71) also took a share of third place along with Chouhan. Chawrasia was the only player with four sub-par rounds this week.

Chikkarangappa (69-72-70-68), who began the day six shots off the lead in third place, had a profitable front-nine as he scored birdies on the first, fourth and seventh thanks to his accurate approach shots and consistent putting which included a 15-feet conversion on the first.

The tournament witnessed a dramatic turn when Om Prakash Chouhan, who had earlier birdied the fourth, found the water hazard twice with his tee shot on the par-3 seventh hole which has an island green. Chouhan thus dropped a quadruple-bogey (7) there as his lead came down to just one shot.

The setback at a crucial time on the seventh took a toll on Chouhan’s game as he struggled on the greens thereafter missing short putts on the 10th, 11th and 17th for bogeys on all three holes that put him out of the contest.

Meanwhile, Chikka, who was three-under at the turn, seized the advantage as he added three more birdies on the back-nine at the cost of two bogeys to ease to victory. He sank a 15-footer for birdie on the 13th, an important 12-footer for bogey on the 14th and landed his approach within a few inches of the pin for birdie on the 17th.

With his winning purse of Rs. 4,84,950, Chikka continued to be second on the PGTI Order of Merit for the 2020-21 season with total earnings of Rs. 28,29,930. Karandeep Kochhar, who finished tied ninth at one-under-287 this week, continues as the PGTI Order of Merit leader with season’s earnings of Rs. 36,57,130. Chikka, who earned five world ranking points for his win, is now likely to make big gains in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) when the updated list is released on Monday. He is currently placed 434 in the world ranking.

The extremely fit Chikka said, “My hitting had been consistent all week but I often found myself on the wrong side of the greens. Today, I missed five greens but was on the right side of the greens so found myself in better positions to make chip-putts. I also hit my wedges really well today.

“I think ‘OP’ (Om Prakash Chouhan) played really well for most of the week but today he may have felt the pressure after I hit it close on the seventh. His quadruple-bogey there gave me a good chance.

“I made a couple of long birdie conversions but the 12-feet conversion for bogey on the 14th was also very critical to my chances. That limited the damage for me after I hit my tee shot out of bounds on that hole. That was probably the turning point for me. I also played a good chip to get away with a bogey on the 10th after an erratic drive.

“Overall, it was a great week for me as I didn’t shoot an over-par round despite the tough conditions at this venue. The win comes at an important stage for me as we’re in an Olympic year and the race for qualifying is on. This win will hopefully help me make a significant gain in the world rankings.

“I recently met the legendary Rahul Dravid in Bengaluru who’s been my mentor for a long time. I told him my plans about how I’m working on my game and my fitness. He complimented me on my fitness and that was a big motivation for me. Just getting to meet him and talking to him has often helped my confidence.”

Viraj Madappa’s (69-74-74-65) brilliant 65 propelled him 14 places up the leaderboard to the second spot. Madappa, a winner on the Asian Tour, made a 30-feet eagle conversion on the 12th and also found the hole from 15 to 20 feet on the fourth and 11th. He recovered well from the trees on the 10th as he hit his nine-iron approach to within eight feet for another birdie. Viraj’s card featured four more birdies and two bogeys.  

Kolkata’s Rahil Gangjee (71) took sixth place at three-under-285. Ahmedabad’s Varun Parikh was the highest-placed among the local players as he claimed tied 19th position at five-over-293. Aryan Roopa Anand of Bengaluru, the only amateur to make the cut, finished tied 21st at six-over-294. He took the trophy for the best performing amateur.

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