Overcoming opening double bogey and a rain-induced break, home favourite Rashid Khan fired four-under par 68 and with a total of 11 under 205 took the sole lead at the end of the third and penultimate day of US$750,000 DGC Open at Delhi Golf Club here on Saturday.
After two bright and sometimes warm days, it was wet and chilly too on the third day, which also witnessed a 45-minute suspension due to the threat of lightning and the round finished in light rain.
Rashid , who was three shots behind behind the overnight leader S Chikkarangappa (74) after the second round, shot his third straight under-par round and to the top as he makes a bid for his third Asian Tour win. His last win at the continental tour came in 2014 while he was runner-up twice last year.
Chikkarangappa could not get his putter going on the wet greens, returned two over 74 dropped to second at 8-under. Honey Baisoya (65) made a bid for his maiden Asian Tour win by getting to tied third at 6-under 210, alongside compatriot Om Prakash Chouhan (73) and Thai Chapchai Nirat (71) at 6-under 210.
At the end of the third day the home golfers had a strong presence on the leaderboard with four of them in Top-5 and eight in Top-20. Two of India’s major stars, Gaganjeet Bhullar (68), who has 10 Asian Tour wins, and SSP Chawrasia (71), who has six wins, were tied 12th.
Two Filipinos, Miguel Tabuena (72) and Justin Quiban (73), and Englishman Matt Killen (74) were tied sixth at 5-under on a day when there were 14 under par scores. Only, Rashid and Chapchai, from the Top-8 players on the leaderboard have won before on the Asian Tour.
Defending champion Nitithorn Thippong (67-70-82) had a day to forget, plummeting from a share of second place all the way down to tied 52nd with a 10-over par round of 82 that included eight bogeys and a double against no birdies and nine pars.
“These kind of rounds give a lot of confidence. When I shot a bogey free round on day one, I was happy and today after the double on the first hole, you know after that when you come back this strong it gives you a lot of momentum.”said Rashid
“I hit back really well and made birdies after making a double on the first and followed it on 4th and 5th. I was just trying and finding the greens and give myself birdie opportunities, and I holed really good putts today. That’s the only thing I was doing and did not take out my driver at all, just hit maybe one which is very rare when I’m playing at the DGC. I just teed off with my 3-iron or 3-wood.”
“The weather didn’t really affect me. I was in that zone where I was just focusing on one thing. I was just surprised that there was lightning and we were getting scared a little because of that, but rain just came maybe on the last two holes, so it was fine.”
Chikka took away positives despite not holing any birdies. He said, “I wouldn’t say it was a bad day. I hit the ball good, I putted well. Just that I lost a little bit of speed on the green with probably the weather and just a little bit of rain kind of slowed down the green so I was struggling a little bit on the speed. But otherwise, I’ve been hitting it good, just need to trust it.”
“I hit two bushes today and then with those I made two bogies and the rest of the day, I made sure that I was in there. So yeah, it’s okay. Definitely the greens changed a bit after the rain, even the fairways as well. I think I still have another 18 holes to go tomorrow.”
Since 2014 Rashid has finished second or tied second four times. Last year he was tied second at the Mandiri Indonesia Open won by Gaganjeet Bhullar, which is the last Indian win on the Asian Tour. Last year Rashid also lost a play-off to Taiwan’s Chan Shih-chang in 2022.
Though Rashid opened a handy lead, the third day’s star was Honey Baisoya (65) who had a bogey free 7-under 65 as he made a giant leap from tied 49 overnight to tied third on the traditional moving day. “I just changed my mindset today. I told my caddie that we will make every par, and we’ll not make bogeys today. In fact, that was my plan for the last two rounds. I started with a birdie and after 5 holes, I was 3 under. I was hitting it good and I was putting it really well. The pins were not easier. The wind was changing and it was swirling a lot so it was difficult to judge where to hit and where to aim.”
While Rashid had six birdies against one double bogey, He birdied 2nd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 11th and 14th. Baisoya birdied 1st, 3rd, 8th, 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th, and 18th.
Yashas Chandra (70) and Karandeep Kochhar (74), who had just one par on the back nine besides three birdies, three bogeys and two double bogeys, were tied 18th.