It was just the kind of score Khalin Joshi needed to leap 15 places for a slice of the lead at the Delhi Golf Club. Nine birdies in a round of eight-under 64 made the Bengaluru-based professional the best Indian performer on the penultimate day of the $400,000 Panasonic Open here on Saturday.
At 13-under 203, Joshi was with joint overnight leader Siddikur Rahman. The Bangladesh pro unleashed a hat-trick of birdies to lead at 14-under after three holes. But two bogeys, before the turn, made him a little conservative. On the back-nine, he birdied the 11th and found pars on the rest for a 70.
Like Siddikur, Ajeetesh Sandhu shot a 70 to stay in the final-day leaders’ group. He also chose to play it safe on the last 12 holes, finding one birdie in the midst of pars.
First-day leader Suradit Yongcharoenchai, who started the day in joint lead, failed to build on three birdies and against a bogey on the first four holes. Bogeys on the 14th and 16th during a birdie-less run on 10 holes, saw him slip to the fourth spot following a par round.
Aman Raj, riding on four birdies during his flawless home-nine 32, jumped to the fifth spot to be one-stroke behind Yongcharoenchai. A shot away was Sachin Baisoya, whose 67 included two ‘eagles’.
Jyoti Randhawa fired a ‘hole-in-one’ on the 12th hole on his way to a 67 for a share of the 17th spot with former champion Chiragh Kumar, defending champion Shiv Kapur and four others, at five-under.
But Saturday’s hero was Joshi. Out of nine birdies, the longest one came on the 11th hole where he filled the cup from just over 15 feet. Rest of his birdies were from under 10 feet.
The key to Joshi’s game today was his hitting off the tee. He used the drivers on many holes and missed just one green-in-regulation. On the 13th, Joshi missed the putt from four feet after his approach-shot flew over the green.
“I’m giving myself more birdie-chances, which is the key over here. I’ve always struggled to hit fairways on this golf course. So overall, the game is in good shape. I’m just happy with the way I’m playing,” said Joshi.
Third round scores (top-10, Indians unless stated):
203 - Khalin Joshi (71, 68, 64), Siddikur Rahman (Ban) (67, 66, 70); 204 - Ajeetesh Sandhu (67, 67, 70); 205 - Suradit Yongcharoenchai (Tha) (66, 67, 72); 206 - M. Dharma (70, 67, 70), Yutaka Araki (Jpn) (70, 67, 70), Sachin Baisoya (70, 70, 67) and Sette Prakongvech (Tha) (70, 67, 70).