McLeod Russel golf: Double delight for Chikka

Kolkata, Dec 27 (IANS) It was double delight for Bengaluru’s S. Chikka as he capped a memorable 2015 golf season with victory at the season-ending McLeod Russel Tour Championship which also made him PGTI Rolex Player of the Year here on Sunday.

Chikka shot a tenacious final round of three-under 69 at the Rs.1.5 crore event at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC) to register a one-shot win with a 12-under 276 total.

Gurgaon-based Indian great Jyoti Randhawa and Khalin Joshi, another Bangalurean, were joint runners-up at 11-under 277.

Chikka’s brilliant win at RCGC earned him his highest ever pay cheque of Rs.22,50,000 which took his season’s earnings to an outstanding Rs.48,87,440. He thus climbed from second place to first position in the money list to take home the Rolex Player of the Year title.

At 22 years and three months of age, Chikka became the youngest winner of the Rolex Ranking title. In his seven starts in the season, he posted three wins, a runner-up and three other top-10s.

The seasoned Mukesh Kumar of Mhow, who finished tied sixth at five-under 283 this week, claimed second place on the 2015 Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) merit list with earnings of Rs. 39,41,710.

Chikka (68-69-70-69), who was overnight third, three shots off the lead, had a steady start to the day with pars on the first three holes. He started making inroads with birdies on the fourth and sixth, having converted a 15-footer on the latter. The pro from the Eagleton Golf Resort, made the turn at one-under after dropping a shot on the eighth where his ball was plugged in the bunker.

While Chikka’s nearest rivals Randhawa and Khalin couldn’t really make a move on the back-nine, Chikka seized the initiative with three birdies against a lone bogey. The 22-year-old marched towards his eighth career title, sinking birdie putts from eight to 12 feet on 12 and 17.

He also capitalized with a birdie on the par-5 15th after finding the green in two shots. The 2013 PGTI Emerging Player of the Year finally sealed the victory with a two-putt for par on the 18th.

Chikka said: “It’s amazing to win the biggest tournament on the PGTI and also the ranking title on the same day. Emerging Order of Merit champion is special for me because I’ve been finishing second on the merit list for the last two years.

Randhawa (68-65-71-73), the overnight leader by one stroke, slipped to joint second place on Sunday after mixing three birdies with four bogeys during his final round of one-over 73.

The 43-year-old, who had struggled with stomach cramps on Saturday, scrambled for most part of the final round and was three-over through 15 holes. Despite his tap-in birdies on 16 and 17, the 2002 Asian Tour champion could not catch up with Chikka.

“I was in a much better physical condition today but couldn’t really produce a round that could’ve helped me win on the final day. Nonetheless, I’m glad to have finished in the top-3 after all that I went through in the third round,” said Randhawa.

Khalin (70-67-68-72), lying overnight second, one behind leader Randhawa, showed promise in the first half of the day as he took the lead at one stage. However, he finally brought in a card of 72 and had to settle for tied second place along with Randhawa.

Khalin was three-under through seven holes, having sunk three birdie putts from 10 to 20 feet. Khalin, a two-time winner on the PGTI, then missed some short putts to add three bogeys to his card.

Kolkata’s S.S.P. Chawrasia, the 2012 champion, fired the day’s joint best score of 68 to finish fourth at 10-under-278. Rahil Gangjee (71), another local favourite, finished three shots behind in fifth place.

Mukesh (68) of Mhow and Sri Lankan Anura Rohana (70) were tied sixth at five-under 283. Kolkata’s Shankar Das, the 2014 champion, ended eighth at four-under 284 after his final round of 75.

Bengaluru’s Udayan Mane, who finished tied 20th this week at one-over-289, won the 2015 PGTI Emerging Player of the Year title for recording the highest earnings among the rookies this season. Mane’s earnings for 2015 stood at Rs.22,21,507.

Mane also finished a creditable fifth in the Rolex Ranking. Feroz Singh Garewal of Chandigarh, tied 27th this week, finished second in the Emerging Player list with season’s earnings of Rs.6,81,040.

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