Om Prakash Chouhan of Mhow didn’t have the best of days on the golf course on Thursday, though he still continued to enjoy a substantial lead for the third consecutive day at the Gujarat Open Golf Championship.
Chouhan, 34 and a five-time winner on the PGTI, returned a disappointing one-over-73 in round three which resulted in his overnight lead of seven being reduced to five shots as his total stood at 11-under-205 at the Kalhaar Blues & Greens Golf Club.
Abhinav Lohan, of Gurugram’s DLF Golf & Country Club, who began the day 10 shots behind the lead in tied 11th place, carded the third round’s joint best score of four-under-68 to move up nine spots into second place at six-under-210.
Bengaluru’s Chikkarangappa S. shot a 70 to close the day in third place at five-under-211.
Chandigarh’s Abhijit Singh Chadha also posted the day’s joint best score of 68 to be placed tied fourth at four-under-212 along with Indian golf legend SSP Chawrasia, who fired a 71 on day three. Chawrasia is the only player with three sub-par rounds to his credit this week.
Chouhan (63-69-73), who matched the course record of 63 on the opening one, struggled to find birdies in the first half of his round on Thursday. The three-putt bogey on the sixth seemed to suggest it may not be his day. However ‘OP’, as he is known to fellow professionals, started getting his act together from the eighth onward as he sank eight-foot birdie putts on the eighth and 10th and a 25-footer for birdie, his week’s longest putt on the 12th.
Some miscalculations with the wind direction resulted in OP landing it in the hazard on the 14th and 16th which in turn led to bogeys on both holes. Finally, on the 18th, Chouhan’s drive found the jungle and he followed that up with a missed par putt from five feet to drop another shot which meant he closed the day a tad disappointed.
“With the kind of lead that I enjoyed at the start of the round, I knew that I just needed to play steady and didn’t need to do anything fancy. The front-nine being tougher to score on, I decided to play conservative golf and not attack the greens on that stretch. Finding the greens on the front-nine is imperative as chip-putts are not easy if you miss those greens,” said Chouhan.
“I’ll go in with the same mindset in the final round since I still have a healthy lead. I’ll look to play safe on the front-nine and then decide my game-plan after the turn depending on the match situation.”
Chouhan admitted to being confused.
“Today I found the hazard twice since I was a little confused about the direction of the wind and therefore my shots didn’t carry the hazards on the par-5 14th and par-3 16th. My putting has been average for the last two days as reading the lines has posed me a few problems. I’ll look to work on that before the last round,” he said.
“In recent times I’ve played three good rounds and one bad round at most events. Hopefully, the bad round is now out of the way with today’s 73. I can look forward to a good score in round four.”
Lohan (73-69-68) was off to a flying start in the penultimate round, thanks to his superb putting as he picked up four birdies on the first five holes, all conversions from a range of 10 to 15 feet. Lohan, a winner on the PGTI in 2019, made his only bogey on the 15th. He finally gained another stroke with a birdie on the 17th where his excellent approach shot set up a tap-in.
Delhi’s Rashid Khan (72) was in sixth place at three-under-213 while Kolkata’s Rahil Gangjee (74) was a further shot back in seventh position.
PGTI Order of Merit leader Karandeep Kochhar (76) of Chandigarh was tied eighth at one-under-215.
The four players bunched in tied 12th at even-par-216 included Ahmedabad-based professionals Varun Parikh (73) and Shravan Desai (74), Bengaluru’s Khalin Joshi (74) and Aryan Roopa Anand (70) of Bengaluru, the only amateur to make the cut.
Udayan Mane (71), who calls Kalhaar Blues & Greens one of his home courses, closed the day in tied 16th at one-over-217.
Jay Pandya (80), the third Ahmedabad-based professional to make the cut, was placed tied 52nd at 13-over-229.