• Kolkata, Dec 24: Delhi golfer Rashid Khan held a two-stroke lead over Chandigarh’s Shubhankar Sharma after the third and penultimate round of the Rs. 1.5 crore McLeod Russel Tour Championship here on Saturday.

    Twenty-six year old Rashid, two-time Asian tour winner Rashid extended his lead to two shots in round three of the PGTI’s year-end championship as a result of his third straight five-under 67 that took his score to 15-under 201 at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC).

    Shubhankar, 21, carded an error-free 67 that saw him rise from third to second place at 13-under 203.

    He is likely to be the most serious challenger to Rashid as the rest of the field is five shots behind.

    The best score of the day belonged to Shamim Khan of Delhi, the current PGTI Order of Merit leader, who carded 66 to climb 11 spots to tie fifth at seven-under 209.

    Shamim is now on the cusp of winning his second PGTI Order of Merit crown as his nearest rivals on the money list, Ahmedabad’s Udayan Mane and Sri Lankan Anura Rohana, are placed 10 and seven shots behind him respectively.

    Overnight leader Rashid (67-67-67), by one, enjoyed yet another solid start as he sank three birdies on the first five holes.

    He stumbled in the middle with consecutive bogeys on the sixth and seventh but rallied with a fabulous back-nine that featured four birdies.

    The wiry Khan, the reigning PGTI Order of Merit champion, had a lucky break on the 15th where his second shot was heading out of bounds but bounced on the cart path and landed behind the bunker enabling him to make an up and down for birdie.

    Rashid also closed the round in style with his third 15-footer birdie of the day.

    “I started well once again and that got my rhythm going. A bad lie on the sixth and the ball catching mud on the seventh resulted in bogeys. But thereafter I kept trying to hit the greens to create chances. That worked out well for me as I birdied the 11th and got back in the groove,” Rashid told reporters after the day’s play.

    “Playing five-under on all three days is fantastic. I couldn’t have asked for more. I’m making most of the putts and that’s been the key for me this week. It’ll be a tough fight with Shubhankar as he’s playing really well and is high on confidence. I’ll have to work hard for the win as nothing comes easy at the professional level,” he added.

    Shubhankar (66-70-67) came back roaring after a quiet second round, picking up three birdies on the front-nine and two more on the back-nine.

    He also had a 12-feet eagle putt on the 15th which he missed narrowly. He ended the round in style with a 25-feet birdie conversion on the 18th.

    Gurgaon-based Veer Ahlawat moved up from overnight tied sixth to tie third after posting a 68 that featured an eagle on the 16th where he drove the green and made a 30-footer.

    Veer shared the third spot with Bengaluru’s Rahil Gangjee (73) at eight-under-208. Gangjee slipped one spot from his overnight second position.

    Shamim was tied for fifth along with Chandigarh’s Ajeetesh Sandhu (69) and Patna’s Aman Raj (70) at seven-under 209.

    Local favourite SSP Chawrasia (72) was tied 10th at five-under 211.

    Meanwhile, Kolkata rookie Viraj Madappa is all set to win the PGTI Emerging Player of the Year title.

    Viraj, placed tied 12th at four-under-212, is currently six shots ahead of Karandeep Kochhar, his nearest rival in the Emerging Player race.

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    The IANS was founded by Indian American publisher Gopal Raju as the India Abroad News Service. It was later renamed the Indo-Asian News Service.

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