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In-form Anirban closes in on title

- Will be difficult to catch up with Lahiri, concedes Chiragh
Anirban Lahiri, at the RCGC, on Saturday. Telegraph pictures

Calcutta: There was no stopping Anirban Lahiri, on the third day of the McLeod Russel Tour Championship, the year-ending event of the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI).

The Royal Calcutta Golf Club, on Saturday, saw Anirban (66-71-65) take a three-stroke lead over Chiragh Kumar, and if the Bangalore-based golfer doesn’t bungle big time, the crown is his for the taking.

The 26-year-old, who was overnight second, claimed his first birdie after converting a 30-footer on the second. Anirban then made as many as three chip-ins. Two of them resulted in eagles on the fourth and 15th and the third resulted in a birdie on the 14th. His other two birdies came on the fifth and 17th. The bogey on the 18th was the only blemish on his card.

The seven-under score is his best at the RCGC, bettering the six-unders he fired during the Eastern India Amateur in 2006 and on the first day of the ongoing meet.

By his own admission, the chip-in on the fourth hole was Anirban’s best in the last six months. And it inspired Rahil Gangjee to do something special too. The local favourite, who along with Anirban were followed by a 200-strong crowd from the ninth tee onwards, sank an eagle from 45-feet.

“Well when Anirban had a chip-in like that, I had to do something special,” Rahil said. With mother Nazirah and wife Maithreyi following him, Rahil maintained his tempo set from the beginning of the day to have a round of 68. That moved his score to 10-under-206 and helped him end the day in third place.

“A great day for me… Even though I missed a few birdies, what counted more was the fact that it was a bogey-free day. Frankly, this title is for Anirban to lose. But I would like to have a round like this on Sunday. Win or lose… That’s more important... A good round of golf,” he said.

Rahil got emotional when asked whether he is missing his dad Bashir on the golf course. “I am yet to come to terms with the fact that he is not here with me. Whenever I played here, my dad used to walk with me from the 12th green… I am missing his pep-talks.”

Chiragh Kumar (71-69-65) produced a spectacular bogey-free 65, the joint best score of the tournament, to climb from overnight tied seventh to second position.

Chiragh, the 2011 Rolex Rankings champion, earned five birdies on the front-nine that featured putts from 12 to 15 feet on the fifth and sixth. He also landed it within four feet on the second and eighth. Chiragh chipped-in for a birdie on the 13th and picked up another birdie on the 15th to end the day with a total score of 11-under-205.

“I had a solid start and just kept going, unlike the second round where I couldn’t capitalize on the start. My ball-striking was great and I kept the errors out of my game. I’ve been playing well as I had a good outing at Jamshedpur last week where I finished in the top-5.

“I’ll just look to play to my potential in the final round as Anirban has the ability to shoot very low scores and is going to be a tough contender. Frankly, it will be difficult to catch up with him,” the Delhi-based golfer said.

The way Chiragh was playing on the front-nine it seemed he would end up as the leader. But then Anirban’s strong showing, coupled with a dip in his own form on the back-nine, made sure that Lahiri reclaimed the top position.

Overnight leader Sanjay Kumar of Lucknow slipped to joint fourth place after posting a 71. Luck did not favour Sanjay on Saturday. He had a double bogey on the eighth after hitting the trees and then had a bogey on the ninth. He never recovered from there on. Abhinav Lohan of Faridabad fired a 69 to join Sanjay in tied fourth at nine-under-207.

Jyoti Randhawa is in seventh place at six-under-210, while Gaganjeet Bhullar and Rolex Rankings leader Rashid Khan of Delhi are in tied eighth spot at five-under-211.

Talking about SSP Chowrasia, the defending champion lies tied 24th at one-over-217. That horrendous eighth hole on the first day probably sealed his fate.