Kochhar clinches victory on home turf with 69, 1st since turning pro

CHANDIGARH: Local hero Karandeep Kochhar clinched victory on his home turf with a stoic last round effort of three-under-69 at the TATA Steel PGTI Players Championship 2020 Presented by Chandigarh Golf Club. Twenty-one-year-old Kochhar’s long-awaited win was his second on the PGTI and his first since turning professional in 2017. His first win on the PGTI came in 2016 at the age of 17 while he was still an amateur. Kochhar, the leader since round two, ended up with a tournament total of 18-under-270 to finish two shots ahead of the rest at the Rs. 30 lakh event.

Kochhar, who took home the winning cheque worth Rs. 4,84,950, has now climbed from seventh to second position in the PGTI Order of Merit. Pune-based Udayan Mane continues to lead the merit list.

Twenty-six-year-old Sunit Chowrasia of Kolkata, nephew of Indian golfing great SSP Chawrasia, broke the course record with a sensational 10-under-62 to secure the runner-up spot at 16-under-272.

Kochhar (66-68-67-69), the overnight leader by a massive four shots, kept his nerves on the final day to register his first win on the PGTI in four years after having come close to winning on several occasions including posting three runner-up finishes. He had hoped for a good stretch over the first six holes and that’s exactly what he managed to do. He collected birdies on the first two holes with a couple of six feet conversions to get his confidence going. He then missed a couple of birdie chances before his three-putt bogey on the 10th.

A good par followed on the 12th where Kochhar two-putted from 70 feet. Standing on the 16th tee he realized that Sunit Chowrasia was tied for the lead with him at 16-under. Kochhar then stepped on the gas and picked up timely birdies on the 16th where he chipped it to five feet and on the 17th where he sank a 20-footer from the fringe.

Kochhar said, “I’ve waited a long time for this win. I came close to winning several times in the past and had many top-10 and top-5 finishes over the past three years. So it’s a big relief to finally cross the line and that too at my home course.

“I got the perfect start and then had a nervy phase between the ninth and the 15th. However, I kept my calm and stuck to my task. On the 16th tee I found out Sunit’s score and knew I had to make a birdie thereafter. I managed to do that and the 20-feet birdie conversion on the 17th was crucial as it gave me a two-shot cushion and helped me avoid the pressure on the last hole.

“I was very consistent through the week and made just two bogeys during the tournament. So it’s been quite a satisfying performance,” added Karandeep, who is likely to make big gains in the world ranking from his current 586th position.   

Sunit Chowrasia (69-69-72-62), who was overnight 14th and nine off the lead, had a blazing start as he birdied the first three holes making two 15-footers and a good chip-putt. With two more birdies on the eighth and ninth, including another conversion from 15 feet, Sunit made the turn at five-under.

Chowrasia, who turned professional in 2018, had a bogey against the run of play on the 10th but came roaring back with birdies on the 11th, 13th and 14th where he sank a 15-footer, made a tough chip-putt and drained a 30-footer respectively.

The soft-spoken Sunit, who has a striking resemblance with his famous uncle SSP Chawrasia, came up with another birdie blitz on the last three holes. A couple of quality chips set up birdies for him from four feet on the 16th and 17th while he made his sixth long conversion of the day, a 15-footer, on the 18th.

Chowrasia thus shattered the previous course record of 64 jointly held by Rashid Khan, Sudhir Sharma and Abhijit Singh Chadha. It was also Sunit’s best finish on the PGTI. Chowrasia said, “I didn’t have very high expectations at the start of the day but the start was terrific and the birdies just kept coming all day. I was in great rhythm throughout. My short-game was excellent and my putter was on fire. For instance on the 14th I had a 30-footer where I thought I’ll make a two-putt for par but it found the hole for a birdie to my delight.

“I wasn’t putting well till last week. But this week fellow Kolkata professional Divyanshu Bajaj who was staying with me helped me a lot with my putting alignment and posture. That made a huge difference to my game. I also keep talking to my uncle regularly and his sound advice is always helpful. I maintain a diary and note down all the points relating to my game. That has helped me figure out and rectify things in my game over the past few years.”

Chandigarh’s Akshay Sharma (69), last week’s winner, took third place at 14-under-274. Chandigarh golfer Yuvraj Singh Sandhu (67) and Gurugram’s Veer Ahlawat (70) were joint fourth at 13-under-275. Abhijit Singh Chadha (66) in tied sixth at 11-under-277 and Aadil Bedi (68) in tied 10th at nine-under-279 finished tied sixth and tied 10th respectively to be the other two local players in the top-10.

PGTI Order of Merit leader Udayan Mane (67) of Pune took tied 14th place at eight-under-280. Rashid Khan (75) of Delhi, the last winner of this event, ended tied 29th at even-par-288.

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