HYDERABAD: Gurugram’s Manu Gandas was in the driver’s seat going into the final round as he maintained his overnight five-shot advantage with a three-under 64 in round three of the Golconda Masters Telangana Open 2021 Presented by Vooty & Haldi at the Hyderabad Golf Association (HGA) course here on Saturday.
Gandas (64-58-64), looking for his maiden win, totalled 20-under 186 after three days. Manu, one of the most consistent performers this season, mixed an eagle and three birdies with two bogeys in the penultimate round.
Bengaluru’s Chikkarangappa (67-63-61), the 2019 champion, shot a six-under 61 to rise three spots to tied second place at 15-under 191. The others in joint second place were Chandigarh’s Yuvraj Singh Sandhu (67-62-62) and Noida’s Amardeep Malik (66-61-64), who fired third round scores of five-under 62 and three-under 64 respectively.
The heavy rain over the past two days resulted in waterlogging in certain parts of the HGA course. As a result, Hole No. 3 was reduced from Par-4 to Par-3, Hole No. 6 was reduced from Par-5 to Par-3 and Hole No. 18 was reduced from Par-4 to Par-3. Therefore, the par for the course in round three was 67 instead of the regular 71.
Manu Gandas, currently ranked eighth in the PGTI Order of Merit with five top-10s so far this season, continued his solid run at Hyderabad this week by leading the field for the third day in succession.
The 25-year-old Gandas, who enjoyed a substantial five-shot lead at the halfway stage, had a rather sedate front-nine on Saturday as he missed several short birdie putts and also bogeyed the seventh after finding the water hazard. His only bright spot on the front-nine was the up and down from the bunker for par on the sixth.
Manu, comfortably ahead of the rest despite his quiet front-nine, then got going on the back-nine to reassert his dominance. He birdied the 10th and 11th thanks to a couple of brilliant tee shots. After a good chip-putt for birdie on the 14th, the golfer from the DLF Golf & Country Club came up with another outstanding tee shot on the par-4 15th where he drove the green and converted a seven-footer for eagle.
Gandas finally dropped another shot on the 17th where he found the water hazard for the second time in the round. However, he managed to stay the top contender for the title with his healthy five-shot lead.
Manu said, “It was a decent round but not up to my expectations as I missed a lot of short birdie putts. However, considering the match situation, three-under was a more than handy score as it kept me way ahead of the rest which in turn would mean less pressure on me in the final round.
“But I’m not taking anything for granted and will take it one shot at a time and treat the last round like any other round. My tee shots have been excellent this week, especially my driver and 3-wood. But I really need to improve on my iron-play and putting.“This season has been my best so that gives me a lot of confidence going ahead.”
Chikkarangappa’s round featured an eagle, five birdies and a bogey and he made a late surge with a six-under on the back-nine. The former champion will look to challenge the leader on the final day.
Yuvraj Singh Sandhu’s 62 included six birdies and a bogey and kept him in the mix. Amardeep Malik, lying overnight second, hung in there in tied second place along with Chikka and Sandhu after making five birdies and two bogeys in his round of 64. Panchkula’s Angad Cheema shot the day’s lowest score of seven-under 60 that lifted him 31 spots to tied 14th at seven-under 199. He had an error-free day.
Local lad Mohammad Azhar from the Vooty Golf County near Hyderabad struck a hole-in-one on the seventh hole during his third round of two-under 65. He too was placed tied 14th at 199. Azhar has now fired aces in successive events on the PGTI. Interestingly, Azhar had also made a hole-in-one in PGTI’s last event in March.
PGTI Order of Merit leader Karandeep Kochhar (63) of Chandigarh was in tied fifth place at 12-under 194 along with Patna’s Aman Raj (62) and Kolkata’s Viraj Madappa (62).
Chandigarh’s Harendra Gupta, the winner of the inaugural edition in 2015, was tied 29th at three-under 203.
The two amateur golfers from Hyderabad, Milind Soni (two-under 204) and Tej Gangavarapu (three-over 209) were placed tied 33rd and tied 49th respectively.