Kochhar raises title hopes with of 67, stretches lead to an imposing 4 shots

CHANDIGARH: Karandeep Kochhar of Chandigarh raised hopes of a second title, his first since turning professional, when he struck a bogey-free five-under-67 in round three of the TATA Steel PGTI Players Championship 2020 Presented by Chandigarh Golf Club. Kochhar’s sublime effort moved his total to 15-under-201 thus giving him an imposing four-shot lead ahead of the final round. He extended his overnight lead by a further two shots.

Chandigarh’s Akshay Sharma, last week’s winner, shot a 68 to share second position along with Gurugram’s Veer Ahlawat (68) and Mysuru’s Yashas Chandra (69) at 11-under-205.

Kochhar (66-68-67), whose only win on the PGTI came in 2016 while he was still an amateur, was off to a flying start on Wednesday as he birdied the first two holes, making a 15-feet conversion on the first and finding the par-5 green in two on the second. Kochhar followed it up with two exceptional par saves by recovering from the bunker on the sixth and from the trees on the ninth.

Kochhar, who wasn’t in the best of hitting form on day three, made further inroads on the back-nine thanks to his putting. He sank birdie putts from a range of 12 to 25 feet on the 10th, 12th and 18th. He said, “I wasn’t too comfortable with my hitting but my chipping and putting saved the day. It was my fourth bogey-free round since the start of last week’s event. So I’ve consistently kept the errors out and that gives me a lot of confidence going into the final round.

“I enjoy a healthy lead but I definitely need to strike the ball better in the last round so that there is less pressure on my short-game. The key in the final round would be getting a good start by playing well on the first five to six holes. If I’m around two-under on the first six holes that would give me a big advantage.”

Sharma (69-68-68) gained two positions to be tied second. He produced an eagle, six birdies and four bogeys. Akshay made an eagle-two on the fourth after his incredible eight-iron approach from 158 yards found the hole. He said, “I posted a low number but made too many bogeys for my liking. I was five-under on the front-nine today and expected to continue the momentum on the back-nine. But three of my four bogeys came on the back-nine and that was disappointing because I feel the back-nine is easier to negotiate. Nonetheless, I feel the confidence from my win last week and that should help me in the final round.”

Veer Ahlawat (66-71-68) also moved up two places from his overnight tied fourth. He struggled with his putting till the sixth hole making a birdie and bogey each. Thereafter, he holed putts from a range of 10 to 20 feet to pick up four birdies.

Yashas Chandra (68-68-69) continued in his overnight tied second place after a 69 which included five birdies and two bogeys. Yashas struggled to find the fairways but his short-game came to his rescue. His round was highlighted by a 25-feet conversion on the fifth. Delhi’s Shamim Khan (68) and Arjun Prasad (70) as well as Chandigarh’s Amrit Lal (68) were in tied fifth place with identical totals of 10-under-206. Kolkata’s Viraj Madappa fired the day’s best 66 to be tied eighth along with Chandigarh’s Yuvraj Singh Sandhu (70) at eight-under-208.

Bengaluru’s Khalin Joshi (67) was tied 10th at seven-under-209 while the Chandigarh duo of Ajeetesh Sandhu (69) and Aadil Bedi (73) were in tied 15th place at five-under-211.Defending champ Rashid Khan (72) of Delhi and PGTI Order of Merit leader Udayan Mane (75) of Pune were both placed tied 22nd at three-under-213.

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