Tata Steel Tour Championship: Aman Raj vaults into third-round lead with day’s best 63

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Jamshedpur, Dec 28: Feeding off the confidence of retaining his card on the Asian Tour, Patna’s Aman Raj vaulted into the third-round lead with the day’s best score of nine-under-63 at the season-ending Tata Steel Tour Championship 2019.

The 24-year-old Aman, a winner on the PGTI last year and an Asian Tour regular this year, was one shot ahead of the rest at 22-under-194 at the Rs. 1.5 crore Tata Steel PGTI event being played at the Golmuri Golf Course in Jamshedpur.

Kolkata-based Indian star SSP Chawrasia (65) and Sri Lanka’s N Thangaraja (66) are breathing down the leader’s neck as they occupy tied second place at 21-under-195.

Aman Raj (67-64-63), lying fifth and two shots off the lead after round two, was off to an inspiring start on Saturday as he chipped it to within one foot of the pin for birdie on the second and then chipped-in for eagle on the fourth. The man with two top-5s on the Asian Tour this year including a runner-up finish in Malaysia then picked up two more birdies on the eighth and ninth to make the turn at a strong five-under.

Aman, currently 11th in the PGTI Rankings, chipped well from the rough for the second time in round three as his shot stopped one foot from the flag on the 10th to give him another birdie. The 2016 PGTI Emerging Player of the Year then drove the green on the par-4 12th to set up a 12-feet eagle putt which he narrowly missed and as a result picked up another birdie.

Aman, who hails from neighboring Bihar, added two more birdies on the 14th and 18th to emerge as the top contender for PGTI’s showpiece event.

Aman said, “The birdie and eagle on the second and fourth made me believe that it was my day. I chipped really well on both the second, where I was in a tough spot, and on the fourth and continued to chip well on the back-nine as well. After the fourth, I kept going with the flow and tried to stay in the present.

“I’ve achieved some important goals this year by first qualifying for the Asian Tour through the Q School and then retaining my card at the end of the year by finishing 52nd in the money list. This has helped me grow in confidence and aim higher. So, I’m in a good mental space now. I’ve dropped just one bogey so far this week and I came close to making at least three more eagles today. So, these are good signs going into the last round. It’s now important for me to maintain my tempo in the last round and also putt well in order to have a shot at the title. I have to be at my best in the final round as any player on his day can shoot a nine-under or ten-under score here,” he added.

SSP Chawrasia (63-67-65) continued in tied second place after a 65 on Saturday that featured an eagle, six birdies and a bogey. After a birdie and a bogey on the first four holes, SSP’s round took off with his eagle on the ninth where he sank a seven-footer.

Chawrasia had a profitable back-nine landing it extremely close on quite a few occasions. After making birdies on the 12th and 13th, SSP enjoyed a late flourish as he collected birdies on the last three holes. The two-time Indian Open champion drained a 40-footer on the 17th where he got relief from the referee after hitting a pole.

Chawrasia said, “My ball-striking wasn’t really up to the mark on the front-nine. But my back-nine was far better. It’s a tight leaderboard and I believe whoever does well on the finishing stretch which has some scoring holes, has a good chance of winning.”

Thangaraja, the overnight leader by one shot, slipped to tied second after a 66 that saw him make seven birdies at the cost of a lone bogey. The Colombo-resident was in terrific chipping form as he set up four tap-in birdies thanks to his accurate chip shots.

Pune-based Udayan Mane produced a 64 to be placed fourth at 19-under-197.

Chandigarh teenager Aadil Bedi too fired a 64 to occupy tied fifth at 18-under-198 along with Delhi’s Chiragh Kumar (65).

PGTI Order of Merit leader Rashid Khan of Delhi carded a 70 to be tied 15th at 12-under-204.

Gurugram-based Abhishek Kuhar fired a rare albatross on the par-5 second hole during his round of 66. Kuhar, who was also placed tied 15th after round three, holed his 4-iron second shot from a distance of 200 yards on the second hole on Saturday.

Indian stars Jeev Milkha Singh (71) and Jyoti Randhawa (72) were both in tied 25th with identical totals of 10-under-206.

Gaganjeet Bhullar, the other Indian star in the field, slipped from overnight tied second to tied 37th at eight-under-208 as a result of his third round of 78.

Jamshedpur’s Karan Taunk was placed 71st at six-over-222.

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