Jamshedpur, Dec. 17: While Panchkula’s Shubhankar Sharma hung on to his lead with a steady one-under-70, the third round of the 15th TATA Open 2016 clearly belonged to Kolkata’s Shankar Das who fired an ace en route his astounding nine-under-62 to not only match the course record at Golmuri for a professional event but also climb 19 places to tied third.
Shubhankar Sharma will go into the final day of the Rs. 75 lakh event being played at the Golmuri Golf Course, with a two-shot lead at 16-under-197. Bangladesh’s Md Zamal Hossain Mollah (69) is placed second at 14-under-199 whereas the third place is shared by Shankar Das, Bengaluru’s Khalin Joshi, Greater Noida’s Samarth Dwivedi and Rashid Khan of Delhi at 13-under-200.
Shubhankar Sharma (64-63-70), the overnight leader by three shots, saw his lead being reduced by one stroke on Saturday after he signed-in a sedate 70. The 20-year-old, currently fourth in the Rolex Ranking, courtesy two wins this year, put together three birdies and two bogeys in round three to be the leader for the third successive day.
Shubhankar started well and seemed to be opening up a big lead when he birdied the second and fourth. However, his progress was halted by some ordinary hitting, that resulted in bogeys on the eighth and 15th. A 20-feet birdie conversion on the 16th helped him close the day with a two-shot cushion.
Shubhankar said, “I started well with two early birdies but then had to pay the price for a bad tee shot on the eighth and an erratic approach on the 15th that landed in the hazard. I’m not too happy with this round but still glad to be ahead.
“I wasn’t too worried about the leaderboard and was just focusing on my own game. But I guess when you don’t hole too many putts others do tend to catch up with you.
“I’ve already achieved what I wanted to this year as I’ve won two events on the PGTI and have also retained my Asian Tour card. So there’s no real pressure in the last two events of the season even though the Rolex Player of the Year title is in sight for me.
“But at the same time winning here would give me a great boost ahead of the Tour Championship next week. The aim in round four would be to find more fairways and hit more greens than I did in round three.”
Md Zamal Hossain Mollah (67-63-69) made four birdies and two bogeys, all on the front-nine, during his third round of 69, to continue in second spot and remain in contention.
Zamal said, “I feel I have a great opportunity of winning as I know the course well and I’m in good putting form at the moment.”
Shankar Das (69-69-62) came out firing on all cylinders in round three to emerge as another contender for the title. Shankar, who was lying a distant tied 22nd and 11 off the lead at the halfway stage, was even-par through the first six holes on Saturday having drained two birdies and two bogeys.
The 2014 Rolex Ranking champion then took flight with two birdies and an eagle over the next three holes to make the turn at four-under. Three more birdies followed for Das on 11, 12 and 13 as he sank a total of five birdie putts from 10 to 20 feet.
Shankar finally matched Sri Lankan Anura Rohana’s course record of 62, achieved at the 11th TATA Open 2012, with a spectacular hole-in-one on the 17th, which accounted for his second eagle of the day.
“I don’t think I put a foot wrong after the sixth hole. It was a dream round. I made a lot of long putts today. It’s great to match the course record. It gives me the self-belief to post another low score and vie for the title here,” said Shankar.
Khalin Joshi (64), Samarth Dwivedi (66) and Rashid Khan (66) also kept their hopes alive with solid rounds to join Shankar in tied third.
Panchkula’s Angad Cheema (67) was a further shot back in seventh while Rolex Ranking leader Shamim Khan (66) of Delhi was in tied eighth at 11-under-202.
Defending champion Mukesh Kumar (70) of Mhow ended the day in tied 36th at two-under-211.