Kolkata: Shamim Khan’s near-flawless short-game helped him surge ahead by three shots in the penultimate round of the Kolkata Classic 2017 even as his driving woes continued at the Rs. 40 lakh event.
The Delhi-based professional, known for his effortless golf swing, struck the day’s joint best score of four-under-68 at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC) to take his total to 10-under-206. He thus moved up one spot from overnight second.
Mhow-based Mukesh Kumar, on the other hand, conceded his overnight lead and slipped to second after an even-par-72 that saw him struggle on the greens. Mukesh’s three-day total stood at seven-under-209.
Kolkata’s Shankar Das made significant gains on day three, moving up 11 places to tied third as a result of his 68 which was the joint best score of the day along with Shamim’s round.
Shankar shared the third position along with Sri Lankan Mithun Perera (70) at four-under-212 on a day that witnessed just 11 under-par rounds.
Pre-tournament favourite SSP Chawrasia of Kolkata signed a card of 72 to be tied for fifth at three-under-213 along with Sanjeev Kumar (70) of Lucknow and Noida’s Gaurav Pratap Singh (71).
Shamim Khan (70-68-68) was erratic off the tee yet again but that didn’t stop him from producing a second straight 68 that handed him a valuable three-stroke advantage.
Despite finding just six out of 14 fairways on Thursday, the 38-year-old Shamim continued his rise in the tournament with an eagle, three birdies and a bogey. The highlight of his round was the eagle on the par-5 fourth where he holed out from 110 yards. He also sank a couple of birdie putts from 20 to 25 feet.
Shamim, a winner of 12 professional titles, came up with three stupendous par-saves as well that made his round all the more special.
Shamim said, “I’ve been low on confidence because of my poor driving but my approach shots, chipping and putting have been the saving grace. I made some excellent par-saves from difficult positions today.
“I’ve never won at the RCGC before so that is a motivating factor for me this week. In the final round, the priority would be to make a steady start by hitting maximum fairways and greens. That would get my confidence going. I can then play as per the demand of the situation.
“With the experienced Mukesh, Shankar and Mithun behind me, a poor start could see my lead disappear quickly. So I have to play some conservative golf to begin with, in order to force the others to do the catching up.”
Mukesh Kumar (69-68-72) just couldn’t find the hole from short-range from the first to the fifth. He thus ended up dropping three strokes on that stretch.
However, Mukesh revived his round with some accurate hitting that led to birdies on the sixth, 10th, 15th and 16th. The 51-year-old finally conceded a three-shot lead to Shamim when he found the hazard on the 17th for a bogey against the run of play.
Mukesh said, “I wish I had made just one birdie on the first five holes. That would’ve changed the course of the day. Nonetheless, I’m happy that I fought back well from the sixth onwards.
“My ball-striking has kept me in the contest so far but I have to sink those short putts in order to have a chance in the final round. I don’t have the option of sitting back in round four, I have to play aggressively from the word go and apply pressure on Shamim.”
Shankar Das was the highest-placed local professional in tied third. He was having a quiet day with pars till the seventh, but an astounding approach on the eighth set up a tap-in birdie for him. Shankar’s round took off thereafter as he went on to add an eagle and two birdies against a lone bogey.
SSP Chawrasia made an incredible four birdies on his last five holes to card a 72 which meant he closed the day in tied fifth, seven strokes off the lead.
Among the other prominent names, Chikkarangappa (76) was tied 10th at one-under-215, Rashid Khan (71) was tied 19th at two-over-218 and PGTI Order of Merit leader Ajeetesh Sandhu (72) was tied 24th at three-over-219.