Mundy clinches title in exciting finish

IN the end, it was a dead heat. The Hindu Open 2003 was on the boil at the serene Cosmo-TNGF course.

IN the end, it was a dead heat. The Hindu Open 2003 was on the boil at the serene Cosmo-TNGF course.

Uttam Singh Mundy held his nerve to win The Hindu Open in a play-off. — Pic. K. GAJENDRAN-

Uttam Singh Mundy and C. Muniyappa had tied with 282, following four rollercoaster days, where the fortunes swung one way, then the other.

A play off would now decide the tournament winner on the day The Hindu was celebrating the completion of 125 years. Which one of the golfers would hold his nerve?

In the end, experience scored over youth with Mundy clinching it, but not before the first play-off had failed to throw up a winner. It was an exciting finish, but one decided by an error.

Muniyappa, the caddie-turned professional from Bangalore, attempted to find the edge of the green with his tee-shot, but only succeeded in sending the ball out of bounds. The championship had concluded.

With a brilliant late surge Arjun Singh took the TNGF-KONE Open. -- Pic. K. GAJENDRAN-

Soon, the bearded Mundy sported a smile as he received the trophy and the winner's cheque of Rs. 1,13,400 — "This is also a day when The Hindu is celebrating. It's a nice coincidence that I won today. I will remember this day. I will remember this victory," he said.

He had dished out fine golf for most part on the fourth day, starting the final morning in the fifth place, firing four birdies in the first five holes, and proceeding to return an impressive card of five under 67. Mundy, however, had choked when the title was agonisingly close ... on the 18th hole.

It was the Kolkata golfer's double bogey — he landed on the rough and then chipped beyond the fairway — that allowed Muniyappa to sneak back in the race for the title. "I played the tee shot with a three-iron. I should have stuck to my normal game-plan," Mundy admitted.

He managed to squeeze home though in the sixth leg of Hero Honda's Southern Swing, also sponsored by the Accel group and the VVA Constructions. But it was a near thing.

Mundy looks at the coming days with optimism. "I am happy with the way I have begun, happy with swing. But there is a long way to go this season."

With a brilliant late surge Arjun Singh took the TNGF-KONE Open. -- Pic. K. GAJENDRAN-<

For Muniyappa, supported by the Karnataka Golf Association (KGA), the tournament marked a breakthrough of sorts. Second going into the last day, he produced a three-under 69 on day four, has a lovely swing, and appears unruffled by situations. The consistent Vijay Kumar finished third with 283, missing the play off by just one stroke. And the promising Rahul Ganapathy was fourth with 284; he had led the field after 64 holes. Yusuf Ali and Amritinder Singh acheived a hole in one during The Hindu Open.

L. Selvadurai, the Rajamundry-based ONGC golfer, won the amateur title with 302, that included a par-72 on the final day, and Gurunath Meiyappan (306) followed.

Leading pro-scores:

The Hindu Open: 282 — Uttam Singh Mundy & C. Muniyappa; 283 — Vijay Kumar; 284 — Rahul Ganapathy; 285 — Feroz Ali & Ashok Kumar.

The Hindu Open was preceded by two other major events in Chennai, the Hyundai Open and the TNGF-KONE Open. By far the more entertaining of the two was the TNGF-KONE Open which saw a brilliant late surge by the gifted Arjun Singh.

Arjun is one of those golfers who spends a lot of time playing outside the country and his presence certainly added lustre to the event at the Cosmopolitan Club course which is managed by the TNGF.

Surely, Arjun loved playing on a course that has improved remarkably in the last few years. For someone who is used to international class courses, the improvements on the course would have been readily noticeable.

There will come a point soon when tournaments will be played on this course without preferred lies. For the fairways have come a long way in the last few years. And the greens are looking good too.

For his part, Arjun, a tall dapper young man with a beautiful swing played blemishless golf on the last day when he turned in a card of eight under 64 to win by five strokes over Digvijay Singh.

Arjun's 268 for the four days — 20 under — was a course record at a venue where, only eight or nine years ago, it was a major sensation if a player broke par over four rounds to finish anything under 288.

"I felt good today and to win with a score like this is very satisfying," said Arjun, who took home Rs. 1,62,000.

After leading for three straight days, Mukesh Kumar from Mohow saw his game fall apart when it mattered most. Leading Arjun by three strokes going into the fourth round, Mukesh shot a final round 74 to take third place.

Arjun actually had the winner's cheque in his pocket after nine holes on the final day as he shot six birdies on the front nine.

Among the amateurs, the in-form Gurunath Meiyappan won as he pleased with a four round aggregate of 294.

If Mukesh was a touch disappointed in this event, then he more than made up for the lapse two weeks later when he returned to conquer the Guindy course of the Gymkhana Club to win the Hyundai Open.

This course too has improved considerably in recent times thanks to a devoted committee of golf addicts.

And on a course where hitting straight is very vital and the roughs can take a heavy toll, Mukesh, one of the biggest hitters in the game, went into the final day with a seven stroke lead, played steady golf for a one over 71 on the par 70 course, and took home Rs. 1,13,400.

"I love playing in Chennai. I have always done well here. To win again here feels great," said Mukesh Kumar.

This was Mukesh's first title of the season. He had 10 victories in 21 starts last year.

Rafiq Ali, joint second after three rounds, made a brave charge on the final day with five birdies but still ended up four strokes behind Mukesh.

The winner's aggregate was 271. Rafiq finished with 275.

The amateur event was won by L. Selvadurai with a total of 291.

Leading pro scores:

TNGF-KONE Open: 268 — Arjun Singh; 273 — Digvijay Singh; 275 — Mukesh Kumar; 277 — Uttam Singh Mundy, Harmeet Kahlon, Rafiq Ali; 280 — Ashok Kumar, Gaurav Ghei.

Hyundai Open: 271 — Mukesh Kumar; 275 — Rafiq Ali; 276 — Uttam Singh Mundy; 278 — Pappan; 279 — Ajay Gupta; 280 — SSP Chowrasia, Firoz Ali.