TAKE Solutions Masters: Joshi's comeback keeps him in the hunt

After dropping four shots in four holes, Khalin Joshi exploded into life, reeling off five birdies on the last eight holes — including four on the final five — to claw his way back into the contest.

Khalin Joshi's dream of a first Asian Tour title is still alive.   -  G. P. SAMPATH KUMAR

Midway through his round on Saturday, Khalin Joshi later admitted, he believed he was out of the race for the TAKE Solutions Masters. He had dropped four shots in four holes as leader Poom Saksansin opened up a six-stroke gap at the turn. That lead swelled to seven when the Thai birdied the tenth. But Joshi was far from done. As a brief shower hit the KGA, he exploded into life, reeling off five birdies on the last eight holes — including four on the final five — to claw his way back into the contest. His dream of a first Asian Tour title is still alive.

Joshi's three-under 68 in the third round kept him two shots behind Saksansin (70), who remained atop the leaderboard at 12-under 201. In third was S. Chikkarangappa (69), eight-under after battling hard. He and Joshi, both from Bengaluru, may expect enormous support on the final afternoon. They know Saksansin well, the three having played a lot together since their junior days. An engrossing Sunday is in store.

Joshi later blamed a bad tee shot on the sixth for disrupting his rhythm. He bogeyed that and the eighth, and double bogeyed the ninth.

"I lost my swing in the middle of the round," he said. "After the 10th, I thought I was out of it. But the birdie on the 11th calmed me down. Then I holed some clutch putts on the back nine. I'm really happy I didn't give up. I know this course well; I'm confident."

Chikkarangappa was one-over at the turn but recovered with four long putts for birdie on the back nine. He had shelved his driver after his problems off the tee on the opening two days, the 23-year-old revealed, and instead brought out a new three-wood. He was thrilled with his birdie on 18, which put him in the leader-group.

"I really wanted to be in the leader-group so I told my caddy that I’ll either gain or lose a shot and so I attacked the green. I two-putted from 50-feet for birdie. It was special," he said.

Saksansin was disappointed with his tee shots and his iron-play, but relieved that he had still managed an under-par round. He had made bogey only once on the first two days but there were three in the third round alone.

"I have to practise my swing a little," he said. "If I play well tomorrow, maybe I can do it. If I don't, then it's bye-bye."

The scores (top 12 after three rounds): 201: Poom Saksansin (Tha) 64, 67, 70; 203: Khalin Joshi 68, 67, 68; 205: S. Chikkarangappa 68, 68, 69; 206: Abhinav Lohan 70, 72, 64, Divyanshu Bajaj 66, 71, 69; 207: Natipong Srithong (Tha) 72, 71, 64, Casey O'Toole (USA) 69, 73, 65; 208: Tirawat Kaewsiribandit (Tha) 71, 72, 65, Ajeetesh Sandhu 69, 72, 67, Danny Chia (Mas) 70, 67, 71, Syed Saqib Ahmed 67, 70, 71, Rory Hie (Ina) 69, 67, 72.