PANCHKULA: Chandigarh’s Akshay Sharma registered a resounding five-shot victory after coasting home with a final round of five-under-67 at the TATA Steel PGTI Players Championship 2020 Presented by Panchkula Golf Club. The 30-year-old Sharma captured his second title in style by taking his tournament tally to 24-under-264 which also equalled the record for the lowest winning total on the PGTI previously jointly held by Anirban Lahiri and Rashid Khan.
It was a wire-to-wire win for Sharma who led from the first round till the end at the Rs. 30 lakh event, the first tournament to be staged on the PGTI in eight months. Karandeep Kochhar, also hailing from Chandigarh, put together an error-free 67 to maintain his overnight second position. He totalled 19-under-269 for the week.
Pune-based Udayan Mane shot the day’s joint best round of 66 to claim tied third place at 14-under-274 along with Bengaluru’s Chikkarangappa (69). Udayan thus extended his lead in the PGTI Order of Merit and is set to move up in the world rankings from his current 290th position. Yuvraj Singh Sandhu, another Chandigarh golfer, finished fifth at 11-under-277 after he carded a last round of 67.
Sharma (64-66-67-67), the overnight leader by a massive five shots, who looked extremely relaxed and confident at the start of the final round, never seemed in trouble as his lead was not under threat at any stage with the rest of the field struggling to catch up.
Sharma got off to a terrific start with an eagle on the third where he holed his second shot from 75 yards. A bogey followed for him on the next hole but he quickly negated that with birdies on the fifth and sixth where he landed his shots inside two feet of the flag. Sharma, leading by five at the turn, was unrelenting on the back-nine too as he picked up three more birdies till the 16th including one on the par-4 11th where he drove the green. He finally bogeyed the last hole and missed out on setting a new record for the lowest winning total on the PGTI. Interestingly, Sharma dropped just two bogeys and one double-bogey during the week.
Sharma’s tournament tally of 24-under-264 equalled Anirban Lahiri and Rashid Khan’s previous records for the lowest winning total on the PGTI. While Lahiri had posted the score at the PGTI Players Championship in Aamby Valley in 2010, Khan matched it at the City Bank American Express Chittagong Open in 2019. Udayan Mane’s 26-under-262 at the TATA Steel Tour Championship in 2019 was achieved with the ‘Preferred Lie’ rule being in force, so it will not be counted as a record.
Sharma, who won his first professional trophy at the QA InfoTech Open in Noida in 2018, took home the winner’s cheque worth Rs. 4,84,950 on Saturday and as a result climbed from 29th to fourth place in the PGTI Order of Merit.
An elated Sharma said, “I was quite relaxed from the very outset today. I knew that I just had to make regulations to stay ahead. Then the eagle on the third made things easier for me. Importantly, I had worked on my weakness, my temperament, during the three months lockdown period when the courses were closed. That seems to be paying off because today I played with a very cool mind and didn’t feel much pressure.
“I recently bought a new house for which I had taken a loan and there had been no earning for me for the past several months so things were getting a little tough. This win now means a lot to me because it makes it easier to repay the loan and take care of other expenses,” added the chirpy Sharma, who moved into his new house about a month back.
He further said, “The 64 in the first round at Panchkula really set it up for me. It was a bonus since I didn’t expect to go that low. I now head to my home course Chandigarh for the next event with loads of confidence knowing that I’ll again be playing at the two courses where I’ve done well this week.”
Karandeep Kochhar (68-65-69-67), who trailed the leader by five at the start of the day, produced five birdies on the last day but was unable to catch up with the lead. Kochhar, who won on the PGTI in 2016 as a 17-year-old while still an amateur, moved up from 23rd to seventh place on the PGTI Order of Merit after his runner-up finish in Panchkula.
Gurugram’s Veer Ahlawat fired the day’s joint best 66 to secure tied sixth place at 10-under-278 along with Kolkata’s Viraj Madappa (71). Chandigarh’s Amrit Lal (68) was eighth at nine-under-279 while Patna’s Aman Raj (67) was a further shot back in ninth. Delhi’s Rashid Khan (74) finished tied 25th place at one-under-287.