PGTI Players Championship: Arjun Sharma moves into sole lead, keeps maiden title hopes alive
Greater Noida's Arjun Sharma fired a determined three-under 69 in round three to move into the sole lead at 11-under 205 at the TATA Steel PGTI Players Championship 2022, here on Friday.
Coimbatore, Aug 19 (IANS) Greater Noida's Arjun Sharma fired a determined three-under 69 in round three to move into the sole lead at 11-under 205 at the TATA Steel PGTI Players Championship 2022, here on Friday.
Arjun, the overnight joint leader and a winner on the PGTI Feeder Tour in the past, kept alive hopes of his maiden title on the PGTI as a result of his one-shot advantage on the penultimate day at the Coimbatore Golf Club.
Khalin Joshi of Bengaluru, a winner on the Asian Tour and former PGTI Order of Merit champion, also shot a 69 on day three to rise one spot to second position and be on the leader's tail at 10-under 206.
Twenty-one-year-old Bengaluru-based rookie Akshay Neranjen, making his professional debut this week, impressed for the third day in succession as he posted a flawless 68 to gain two spots and end the day in third place at nine-under 207, thus making it to the leader group for the final round.
Arjun (67-69-69), who has been in the mix since the start of the week, had some early trouble when his first tee shot of the day found the trees. But the 29-year-old Sharma salvaged a par on the first with a quality up and down that got his confidence going.
The golfer then picked up the pace with birdies on the second, third and 10th landing his wedge shots within close range of the pin. Arjun's two errors resulting in bogeys on the 13th and 17th were negated by his 30-feet birdie conversion on the 16th and a chip-in birdie on the closing 18th.
"I had a nervy start but the good par save on the first got the ball rolling for me. I was disappointed to drop a bogey from a good position on the 13th. But I managed to hang in there and finished really well for the second straight day. The chip-in on the last hole was a real confidence-booster going into round four," said Arjun, who was the winner of the PGTI Feeder Tour event in Jaipur back in 2018.
"I'm feeling good about my game. I'm playing smart, playing to my strengths and not overdoing things. This approach has helped me so far this week. Heading into the final round I feel one has to watch out for the par-3 holes here. The par-3s are tough, especially the seventh and 14th as they're long and tough to negotiate when the wind is up," he added.
Meanwhile, Khalin Joshi (69-68-69) kept himself in contention with a solid effort. Khalin had a quiet front-nine making the turn at even-par for the day. Joshi had a fruitful back-nine consisting of four birdies and a bogey. He produced one of his longest drives of the day to set up birdie on the 10th and also made two long birdie putts on the 16th and 18th.
"I'm very pleased with the way I've been playing the back-nine here. But I want to tune up the front-nine where I haven't scored well all week. I've been hitting the ball very well off the tee and placing myself in good positions to make birdie," said Khalin.
"I'm also pleased with my putting, having made some clutch putts today especially to save par. I feel that I need to sharpen my iron-play and wedge-play too to have a good chance on the final day," he added.
Joshi will be joined by his good friend and regular practice partner Akshay Neranjen (69-70-68) in the leader group as the latter occupies third place. Neranjen, on his pro debut this week, made outstanding chip-putt birdies to capitalize on three of the four par-5s, the ninth, 10th and 13th, thus giving the established pros some serious competition.
"The key to my good scores has been the fact that I've stayed patient despite making slow starts on two days when I didn't score early birdies. Hitting my drives well and keeping them in play has helped me capitalize on the par-5s this week," said Neranjen.
"It's going to be a lot of fun playing the last round in the leader group with my practice partner Khalin. We even played the practice round together this week. Khalin is very competitive but with both of us playing together there may be a lot of friendly banter too," he added.
Two-time PGTI Order of Merit champion Shamim Khan of Delhi, the overnight joint leader, slipped to fourth place at eight-under 208 following his third round of 72. Ahmedabad's Varun Parikh (71) is in fifth place at seven-under 209.
The two best scores of the day were shot by the Delhi duo of Sachin Baisoya and Arjun Prasad. Baisoya and Prasad came up with 67s to be placed tied 11th at three-under 213 and tied 19th at one-under 215 respectively.