Five of the six winners of the six events held so far are also in the field, including Sneha Singh, the only multiple winner of the ongoing season.
Veer Ahlawat, Angad Cheema and Honey Baisoya kept home challenge alive even as Germany’s Yannik Paul remained in the lead at the end of the third and penultimate round of the $2 million Hero Indian Open at the DLF Golf and Country club here on Saturday.
It was the turn of Veer Ahlawat to pick up the baton for the Indians as the lanky golfer who is based at the DLF, his home venue, brought in a solid four under par 68 to share fourth place six shots behind a developing all-German battle for top honours with overnight leader Yannik Paul and Marcel Siem separated by just one shot on 11 and 10-under par respectively.
Overall, though, it was a strong display by Indian golfers with three – Ahlawat, Angad Cheema four under 212) and Honey Baisoya (three under 213) – in the top 10.
At various points during the day, Indians made a move on the leaderboard, including Angad Cheema, Honey Baisoya and most particularly Yashas Chandra, only to fall away. Mysore-based Chandra in particular was most impressive on the front nine where he picked up five shots to move within four of the top despite a late bogey.
The back nine though was a disaster as he drove into the bushes on 10 for triple bogey and then into the hazard on 17 to drop a further two shots, playing near-faultless golf otherwise especially on the greens where he turned in a putting master-class.
Ahlawat (73-70-68) was the steadiest of the lot, his third cay card marred by just one blemish even as others around him dropped shots by the bushel. In the top 10, there was only one bogey-free card, by last week’s winner on Thailand, Thorbjorn Olesen (six-under 66) and only three in the top 20.
“It’s important to play it shot by shot over here and that’s what I did well today,” the long-hotting Ahlawat said later. “The fact that I’m playing at my home course obviously adds to my confidence. A decent run of form on the Asian Tour and PGTI last year have also contributed to the good mental space that I’m in at the moment.
“The solid start set up the day for me. I hit 16 greens in regulation as my ball-striking was top-notch. I left myself a lot of 10 to 12 feet putts most of which I converted with my putting being quite consistent. The relatively calm conditions also helped in scoring today.”
In all, Ahlawat had just one bogey, on the Par-4 14th against five birdies, four of them on the front nine. Behind him, Cheema (68-71-73) would give away five shots including a double-bogey while Baisoya (66-74-73) was unfortunate to blade his ball across the green and into the bunker on the Par-3 16th from where he would drop a double of his own, the only blot on his card.
Further down the order, there were good recoveries by Gaganjet Bhullar (68, and T28 on level par 216), Shiv Kapur (69, and T37 on one-over 217) while Shubhankar Sharma, Manu Gandas and Sachin Baisoya were all on level par 216.
Meanwhile the two Germans, Paul and Siem, who are vying to be the first from their country to win the Hero Indian Open and are separated by just one shot.
Paul (71) was 11-under and Siem with a 67, became only the second player this week to get to double digits under par at 10-under. Joost Luiten, with an eventful 68 that included seven birdies against three bogeys, was lurking not too far behind at 8-under for 54 holes.
Tied at seventh at 4-under were Japan’s Masters-bound Kazuki Higa (71), Spain’s Angel Hidalgo (67) and India’s Angad Cheema (73), whose fortunes ebbed and flowed through the day with four birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey.
Jazz Janewattananond (71) and Honey Baisoya (73) at a total of 3-under completed the Top-10.
Paul, kept his nose ahead despite a rough start that saw him bogey the second and third holes.He shrugged aside any disappointment and made up with a hat-trick of birdies from sixth to eighth. On the less rocky back nine, he had one birdie and bogey and played out a round of 71.
Paul looked ahead at Sunday and said, I’m in a great position and I’m looking forward to playing with Marcel tomorrow .Getting the win would be amazing. Such an iconic event here but I think that’s the hard part. You don’t want to think ahead, you want to stay in the present because 18 holes is a lot of golf left.”
Siem said, “Yannik is a very good player, very steady, he’s a tough guy to beat. I’m not thinking about it. Last three holes down the stretch, that’s where it matters. I’m just trying to do what I do, but it would mean a lot to me, trust me. It would be a life-changer, but let’s talk about that tomorrow.”