Mukesh keeps his cool under pressure

A year after winning the title, Mukesh Kumar missed the cut here last year. But on Saturday, the seasoned golf pro felt so good at the PGTI Cochin Masters that he told the officials here before the final round that he would return with the title.

The 51-year-old from Mhow in Madhya Pradesh kept his cool under pressure and produced a bogey-free five-under-67 on the final day for a total of 12-under-276 to regain his title by one shot.   -  Special Arrangement

A year after winning the title, Mukesh Kumar missed the cut here last year. But on Saturday, the seasoned golf pro felt so good at the PGTI Cochin Masters that he told the officials here before the final round that he would return with the title.

The 51-year-old from Mhow in Madhya Pradesh kept his cool under pressure and produced a bogey-free five-under-67 on the final day for a total of 12-under-276 to regain his title by one shot at the CIAL Golf Club, Nedumbassery. The victory brought him a cheque of Rs. 6 lakh.

“The seventh hole, where I landed in the water hazard but still managed to save par from 20 feet, was the turning point. After that, I knew that this could be my day,” said Mukesh who won his first Asian Tour title, the Panasonic Open India in New Delhi, in December.

“And after getting a birdie on the 13th, I was tied with Anura Rohana for the lead. That spurred me on and I attacked the pins and went on to make another birdie on the 16th.

“Missing the cut last year was very painful, I was very upset, but these things happen in golf. And now, my victory will help me at next week’s Panasonic Open in Japan.”

While Mukesh, who was joint third overnight, appeared to go from strength to strength, overnight joint leader Rohana appeared to wilt under pressure.

“I missed a crucial eagle when my bunker shot just stopped on the lip of the 16th hole. It was the similar story on the 16th yesterday too. Had I got it, I would have been tied for the lead and it could have been a very different story,” said a disappointed Rohana who finished runner-up.

The Sri Lankan, who got birdies in each of the last four holes on Friday, appeared to be in fine nick early on the final day at three-under after the first eight holes but then dropped bogeys on the ninth and 14th to hand over the lead to Mukesh.

Chandigarh’s Harendra Gupta, the other overnight joint leader, finished third after his final round of 72 while defending champion Feroz Ali Mollah (73) of Kolkata finished tied 23rd.

V.J. Kurian, Managing Director, CIAL, gave away the prizes.

Final placings: 276: Mukesh Kumar (70-68-71-67). 277: Anura Rohana (70-70-67-70). 279: Harendra Gupta (70-65-72-72). 281: Om Prakash Chouhan (69-71-73-68). 284: Akshay Sharma (73-70-72-69), Honey Baisoya (74-67-68-75). 285: Ajeetesh Sandhu (67-72-76-70), Naman Dawar (72-70-72-71), Raju Ali Mollah (72-72-69-72).

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Two more and it’s quits!

He has got 123 pro titles in his bag, no other golfer in the country has won more. And Mukesh Kumar is a very happy man.

“I’ve told my friends that I would stop at 125 titles,” said the 51-year-old from Mhow after winning his second PGTI Cochin Masters golf title at Nedumbassery on Saturday evening. “I don’t know when and where the other two will come from but I’ll keep my word. No more after that.”

The Panasonic Open India title, which he won in New Delhi in December, ended Mukesh’s 32-year wait for his maiden Asian Tour title. And the 19th trophy he won at the Cochin Masters on Saturday is the highest by anyone on the PGTI circuit.

So, what will he do after quitting the tour?

“I will probably play the senior tour in Japan and I will think of coaching youngsters. This sport has given me everything, I want to give something back.”