Shankar Das surges ahead with timely 65; Throws hat in the ring for Rolex Player of the Year title.
Rashid Khan two shots off the lead in second place
Kolkata, December 27, 2014: Shankar Das of Kolkata fired a timely seven-under-65 to surge ahead in round three of the Rs. 1.5 crore McLeod Russel Tour Championship at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC) on Saturday. Shankar’;s three-day total now stands at 13-under-203 and he enjoys a two-shot lead over his nearest rival Rashid Khan of Delhi who shot a 71 in the third round. Delhi’;s Shamim Khan lies third at 10-under-206.
Shankar’;s third round effort, the day’s joint best score, meant he too emerged as a strong contender in the Rolex Rankings race besides Rashid Khan and Chikkarangappa. Das is currently placed third in the Rolex Rankings.
Shankar Das (68-70-65), who was overnight tied sixth, shot his best score of the week on day three as he came up with an eagle and eight birdies against three bogeys. Das, playing at his home course, began his day on a bright note with an eight-foot birdie conversion on the first. He then stumbled with bogeys on the second and third due to some errors in judgment. The 31-year-old turned the tide in his favour with an eagle on the par-5 fourth where he found the green in two shots and sank a 10-footer.
Shankar, a winner of four titles, then went on a birdie-spree on the sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th after landing it within six feet on all four occasions. His approach from 150 yards stopped within a whisker of the hole on the eighth. The bogey on the 14th was a minor blip as Shankar produced a fine chip shot on the 15th and two 25-footers on the 16th and 18th to earn three more birdies.
“The bogeys early on were disappointing. On the second, I didn’t go by my gut feeling as far as club-selection is concerned and ended up with a poor tee shot. I then hit a half-hearted shot on the third. The eagle on the fourth was the turning point for me. I knew I could pick up the pace from there on. I then almost sank putts at will and fired a near-perfect approach on the eighth,” said Shankar, who has posted seven top-5s on the PGTI in 2014.
He added, “I know I’m in contention for the Rolex Player of the Year but I won’t let that distract me from my primary target of winning this event. Even though I’ve done well in most events this year, I haven’t won anything. There’s a burning desire to notch my first victory in over a year. That thought will motivate me in the final round.
“I love the support I’ve been receiving on the course this week. Both my kids have walked the course with me on all three days. Today they were joined by my nephews and nieces as well. The RCGC members and my friends are also constantly cheering me on. The tremendous crowd support did wonders for my confidence today. I’d love to win my first event at my home course in front of my family and friends,” said Shankar.
Rashid Khan (71-63-71), who matched the course record in round two with a superb 63, had a relatively quieter day on Saturday as he carded a 71. Rashid, however, hung on to his overnight second position at 11-under-205. He continues to be in the reckoning in the Rolex Rankings race.
Khan had a forgettable start as he bogeyed the first and then found the water hazard to drop another shot on the third. He did pick up five birdies thereafter but the double-bogey on the 16th, where he found the hazard, put paid to his efforts.
Rashid, still a contender in the Rolex Rankings, said, “I had a poor start just like round one. I did recover after that but the double-bogey did the damage. A good start will be the key to my chances in the final round as two shots is not a big lead.”
Shamim Khan returned a 69 to be placed third at 10-under-206.
Abhinav Lohan’s 65, the day’s joint best score along with Shankar’s round, catapulted him from overnight tied 14th to tied fourth at nine-under-207. The Faridabad-based professional had a run of five consecutive birdies from the 12th to the 16th.
Bangalore’s Chikkarangappa S kept himself in the hunt for the Rolex Rankings title with a 72 that helped him join Lohan in tied fourth place.
Gaganjeet Bhullar of Kapurthala also took a share of fourth position after his round of 70.
Sri Lankan Mithun Perera (68) occupied seventh place at seven-under-209 while the Kolkata duo of SSP Chowrasia (68) and Arjun Atwal (72) were a further shot back in joint eighth along with overnight leader Shubhankar Sharma (77) of Gurgaon.
Rahil Gangjee (72), another local lad, is in 11th place at five-under-211.
Rolex Rankings: Shankar Das throws his hat in the ring
With Shankar Das taking the third round lead, it’s now clearly a three-way race for the Rolex Player of the Year title between Chikkarangappa, Shankar Das and Rashid Khan. The equation for the three golfers to guarantee themselves the Rolex Rankings crown is as follows: Second-ranked Chikkarangappa needs to finish at least runner-up at the McLeod Russel Tour Championship while both third-ranked Shankar Das and fourth-ranked Rashid Khan need to win the Rs. 1.5 crore event and at the same time hope Chikkarangappa doesn’t finish runner-up.