Home hero S.S.P. Chawrasia produced a short game masterclass as he returned with a third round four-under-par 68 to hold a two-shot lead at the Hero Indian Open on Saturday.
Chawrasia, a three-time Asian Tour winner, carded four birdies but it was a par save after finding thick bushes on the 12th hole which earned him the biggest applause as leads the chasing pack on 14-under-par 202.
Overnight leader Terry Pilkadaris of Australia, searching for a first win since 2005, posted a disappointing 73 to lie in second place at the US$1.66 million event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.
Reigning Asian Tour number one and title holder Anirban Lahiri of India charged into contention with a flawless 67 to tie in third place alongside countryman Rashid Khan (69) on 206s to trail by four shots.
Chawrasia, a four-time runner-up at the Hero Indian Open, turned in 32 before holding his nerve to sink a clutch 14-foot par putt on the 10th hole.
With Pilkadaris trailing closely, the 38-year-old Chawrasia found trouble on hole 12 when his tee shot landed in thick and thorny bushes. Standing in an awkward position, he calmly chipped out to safety and holed out to save par from the edge of the green.
“On the 10th and 12th holes I had to make saves. I think on the 12th I was very lucky to make a chip to make a par. It felt great to see the ball going into the hole. It helped me to hold the score. Those two holes made a lot of difference,” Chawrasia smiled.
“I have played here at the Delhi Golf Club quite few times. So, I know how to play here. Honestly, the Hero Indian Open is a very important tournament for me and for sure I want to win it because I have finished second over here four times,” he added.
Pilkadaris, a three-time Asian Tour winner, rolled in a clutch par putt on the 17th hole to stay in the title hunt. He praised playing partner Chawrasia for his impressive short game performance.
“That’s golf, that’s the beauty of the game. One day it is good and one day it is off. There were a couple of big momentum changes. On number 10, S.S.P. was all over the place and I thought I got a chance, I got a 15 footer for birdie and he got a 14 footer for par, I missed mine and he holes his.
“He got into trouble on 12 but what a fantastic chip shot to hole that. He putted well. He putted fantastic. I see Anirban Lahiri is lurking. There will be a few people popping up. I just need to worry about my game and try to do the best I can,” said Pilkadaris.
Lahiri, ranked 52nd in the world, will be aiming to repeat last year’s heroics where he fought back from seven shots down to defeat Chawrasia on the first play-off hole.
“I have a chance. This is Delhi Golf Club and pressure does funny things to people out here. I can’t control the weather or how anybody is playing. I’m happy with how I played today so hopefully I can back it up with a better final round,” said Lahiri, a seven-time Asian Tour winner.
Rahil Gangjee of India shot a 66 to share fifth place with Korean rising star Jeunghun Wang, Brazilian Adilson Da Silva and Frenchman Sebastien Gros, who will head into the final round five shots off the pace.
Scores after round 3 of the Hero Indian Open 2016 being played at the par 72, 6983 Yards Delhi GC course (am – denotes amateur):
202 – S.S.P. CHAWRASIA (IND) 67-67-68.
204 – Terry PILKADARIS (AUS) 67-64-73.
206 – Anirban LAHIRI (IND) 68-71-67, Rashid KHAN (IND) 69-68-69.
207 – Rahil GANGJEE (IND) 69-72-66, Jeunghun WANG (KOR) 67-74-66, Sebastien GROS (FRA) 69-70-68, Adilson DA SILVA (BRA) 72-66-69.
208 – Arjun ATWAL (IND) 70-71-67, Thangaraja N. (SRI) 69-71-68, Julien QUESNE (FRA) 70-68-70, Alejandro CANIZARES (ESP) 68-69-71, Jorge CAMPILLO (ESP) 66-71-71.
209 – Richard McEVOY (ENG) 71-70-68, Daniel IM (USA) 65-74-70, Maximilian KIEFFER (GER) 69-70-70, Shiv KAPUR (IND) 72-67-70, Gregory HAVRET (FRA) 68-70-71.
210 – Jazz JANEWATTANANOND (THA) 71-69-70.
211 – Scott HEND (AUS) 72-71-68, Scott JAMIESON (SCO) 73-69-69, Richard T. LEE (CAN) 73-69-69, Mardan MAMAT (SIN) 72-69-70, Angelo QUE (PHI) 70-71-70, Paul DUNNE (IRL) 74-66-71, Sanjay KUMAR (IND) 67-72-72, David LIPSKY (USA) 69-67-75.
212 – Ajeetesh SANDHU (IND) 76-66-70, Chapchai NIRAT (THA) 70-71-71, Jbe KRUGER (RSA) 71-70-71, Daniel BROOKS (ENG) 71-70-71, Danny CHIA (MAS) 70-71-71, Honey BAISOYA (IND) 68-72-72.