Avantha Masters: Seven tied first, Gangjee keeps India’s hope alive

Saturday, February 13, 2010

GURGAON - The marketing men behind the Avantha Masters golf will be patting themselves on the back Sunday morning as the final round dawns on the 1.5 million euros event.

The tournament slogan “The battle lines are drawn” could not be better as seven players tied for first position on the 11 under par DLF Golf and Country Club.

With 32 players within five strokes of the lead, the final round is certainly shaping up to be a battle royale, with Rahil Gangjee set to carry the hopes of a nation on his shoulders as he takes on his co-leaders Fredrik Andersson-Hed of Sweden, Australian Darren Beck, the English duo of Richard Bland and Barry Lane, Chan Yin-shin of Taipei and Japans Tetsuji Hiratsuka.

Only five Indians made the cut from the 25 pros and one amateur who began the week. Behind Gangjee, who was tied for the lead, was Jyoti Randhawa in tied 29th, Arjun Atwal was tied 37th, while Digvijay was tied 54th and Ashok Kumar was 63rd.

Gangjee will draw on the will of the home crowd as well as his Volkswagen Masters success of six years ago on the Asian Tour as he goes into the final round looking to follow the example of S.S.P. Chowrasia, who won the Indian Masters on home soil two years ago.

Im excited that Im in the lead but Im just going to do what Ive been doing the last three days by playing one shot at a time and enjoying it, said Gangjee. The pressure will always there but Ive been in this position before and Ive handled it well.

Lane can become the oldest winner in European Tour victory if he can add to his four career successes. The Englishman is loving every minute of being back in contention and will have a great chance to win if he can get his putting stroke working.

I have a great chance, smiled Lane before heading to the putting green to practice under strict instruction from his wife. I just have to hole a few more putts and I have as good a chance as anyone because it is a very packed leaderboard with so many shots within a few shots of the lead.

I have been in these situations before so it will help me in that sense but it has been a long time since my last win.

Bland is eyeing a maiden European Tour victory and feels ready to make the breakthrough.

I believe that I have the game to win and the last six months have shown me that I do have the game to win at this level, said the Englishman.

Hiratsuka, meanwhile, who shot a course record of 62 at the weather-disrupted second round, underlined his title ambitions when he returned with a 70 to remain in contention for his career breakthrough on The European Tour.

The Japanese enjoyed a flawless opening front-nine where he recorded birdies on the fourth and ninth holes to reach the turn in 34. He then mixed two bogeys against two birdies in his home run to sign for a 70.

My putting has been very good today and Ill happy with my early season form. There are still 18 holes to play tomorrow and Ill do my best, said Hiratsuka who earned his Asian Tour card through Qualifying School in 2009 and enjoyed two top-10s in his rookie year last season.

Beck, whose maiden Asian Tour win came in Brunei last season, proved that he is also ready to mount another genuine challenge this week.

The 31-year-old Australian, who started his round tied fourth, made his move up the leaderboard quickly with three birdies and a bogey in his opening four holes.

He then birdied the par-five sixth to reach the turn in 33 before mixing two bogeys against another birdie in his inward nine.

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