Chiragh Kumar strokes to Panasonic Open win

Chiragh Kumar’s wait for a maiden Asian Tour title ended with three-stroke victory at the $400,000 Panasonic Open golf championship at the Delhi Golf Club course here on Sunday. The eventual margin of victory for Chiragh looks emphatic but that could not be visualised when Chiragh and closest contender Bangladesh’s Siddikur Rahman were separated by just one shot on the 17th green.

Chiragh, whose previous best on the Asian Tour was runner-up finishes at the 2015 Macau Open and the 2011 Indian Open, collected USD 72,000.   -  Sandeep Saxena

Chiragh Kumar’s wait for a maiden Asian Tour title ended with three-stroke victory at the $400,000 Panasonic Open golf championship at the Delhi Golf Club course here on Sunday.

The eventual margin of victory for Chiragh looks emphatic but that could not be visualised when Chiragh and closest contender Bangladesh’s Siddikur Rahman were separated by just one shot on the 17th green.

Siddikur’s bogey-bogey finish robbed the event of a nail-biting finish but the gallery kept cheering for the champion, bred on this course. In fact, Siddikur’s final-hole bogey made him share the second spot with veteran Thai and former India Open champion Thaworn Wiratchant at 10-under.

Creditably, Jyoti Randhawa fired six birdies over the last nine holes to finish with a 67. He ended up joint-third with young Shubhankar Sharma and two others.

Chiragh, whose previous best on the Asian Tour was runner-up finishes at the 2015 Macau Open and the 2011 Indian Open, collected USD 72,000.

His tally of 13-under 275 matched the lowest winning score, posted in 2011 by Anirban Lahiri for his maiden title on the Tour.

“I again had a bad start (with a bogey on the fifth hole) but thereafter, I played some solid golf. My second shot on the 16th hole and the tee-shot on the 18th really good. I must say, playing at home did help,” the champion said after the victory, who turns 32 next month.

Throughout the day, Chiragh and Siddikur battled it out. It was Siddikur’s birdie on the ninth hole that brought the contenders level at 11 under at the turn. It was Chiragh’s birdies – on the 11th and 13th holes – that gave him the much-needed cushion with Siddikur settling for successive pars. On the 14th Chiragh missed a birdie-putt from less than five feet and on the following hole Siddikur’s brilliant approach shot set up an easy birdie from three feet. That left Chiragh clinging on to his overnight one-stroke lead with three holes to go.

Chiragh, after a poor tee-shot on the 16th hole, managed to hold par while Siddikur’s birdie-putt from around eight feet stopped short. The rise in excitement was palpable with just two holes remaining and Chiragh still one ahead.

On the par-3 17th hole, where Chiragh dropped a shot 24 hours ago, it was Siddikur who missed a par-putt from around six feet to give Chiragh a two-stroke cushion before the final hole.

The title almost stood decided once Siddikur’s tee-shot on the 18th hole went into the bushes on the left after Chiragh was well placed on the fairway.

It didn’t matter that Chiragh missed his birdie-putt since he had already ensured the title with a minimum three-stroke margin.

The scores (Indians unless stated): Chiragh Kumar (67, 66, 72, 70) 275; Thaworn Wiratchant (Tha) (68, 72, 69, 69), Siddikur Rahman (Ban) (68, 70, 68, 72) 278; Namchok Tantipokhakul (Tha) (71, 71, 71, 66), Jyoti Randhawa (69, 72, 71, 67), Shubhankar Sharma (70, 73, 67, 69), Mithun Perera (Sri) (66, 70, 73, 70), 279; Manav Jaini (72, 71, 69, 68), Shankar Das (69, 71, 71, 69) and Vikrant Chopra (71, 68, 71, 70) 280.