Feroz Ali moved a step closer to claiming his second title of the season when he set up a three-stroke lead after the penultimate round of the Rs 1. million Tata Open, the 10th leg of the Hero Honda Indian Golf Tour being played at the Beldih and Golmuri courses in Jamshedpur, on Saturday. The Kokata pro had a three-day total of nine-under 203.
'Rookie of the year' for the 2002-03 season Ashok Kumar submitted a second successive card of four-under 68 for a 54-hole total of six-under 206 to share the second position along with SSP Chowrasia and Vijay Kumar. Defending champion Mukesh Kumar occupied the sole fifth position with a total of 208. Ajay Gupta, Amit Dube and Vikramjit Singh were tied for the sixth position at 210.
With the leader group teeing off from the Golmuri Club, Feroz Ali opened his account with a bogey on the fourth missing a short par-putt. The Kolkata pro who was leading by a stroke overnight made birdies on the fifth and seventh with some good drives. He also had a birdie in between to be level par before they crossed over to Beldih Club which is located about seven kilometers away.
The former Indian Open champion missed at least four birdies from close distance. A lucky 20-footer on the 14th (par-4 fifth at Beldih) was the lone birdie he could salvage. "It was not that I putted badly but somehow found the wrong line," said Feroz who is being kitted by Wilson. "I am going to use the same strategy of playing my normal game and surely will try to putt better.
Feroz Ali was helped by bogeys from Vijay Kumar who found his putter to be cold. Missing his putts from close, the pro from Lucknow dropped three shots on the second, fourth and eighth. Carrying the same form, Vijay bogeyed the 10th (opening hole at Beldih) and the 14th. However birdies on 11th, 13th, 16th and the best of them all on the 18th still kept him in contention.
Ashok Kumar who had a round of two-over on the opening day resurrected his position tremendously with good iron-play on the second and third day. With three birdies on the first, fifth and seventh, the 21-year-old lad from DLF Golf and Country Club made a bogey on both the par-3 holes - the third and the sixth missing from two feet.
The change of course changed his luck too as he began sinking those short ones. Making four birdies on alternate holes beginning from the third, Ashok made a solitary mistake on the sixth where he three-putted from 15 feet for a bogey. "I hit the ball well and that saved he day for me," said Ashok. "A three-stroke lead in these kind of golf courses is not that big a lead," he felt.
SSP Chowrasia who was in good nick during last week, failed miserably with his putter today missing on out birdie opportunities on at least six occasions. A couple of birdies and bogeys in his front nine kept him at his overnight score of five-under. He began his back nine with a bogey. After he had made two birdies on the 11th and 14th the diminutive pro from Kolkata three-putted on the 16th from 15 feet. A birdie on the closing hole kept Chowrasia in the hunt.
BHALOTIA WINS 'LONGEST DRIVE' AWARD: In an exciting contest held for the 'Longest drive' award, Kolkata pro Indrajit Bhalotia drove to 296.5 yards to emerge winner while Zai Kipgen and Vivek Bhandari came in second and third respectively. There was a `Bunker play' competition too. The winners in each category bagged Rs 7000 each while the runner-up and second runner-up pocketed Rs 5000 and Rs 3000 respectively.
Scores (after 54 holes): 203_Feroz Ali (66,68,69); 206_ Ashok Kumar (74,66,66), SSP Chowrasia (68,69,69), Vijay Kumar (65,70,71); 208_Mukesh Kumar (67,71,70); 210_Ajay Gupta (72,69,69), Amit Dube (67,72,71) Vikramjit Singh (67,71,72); 211_ DS Raghuvanshi (71,70,70), Ranjit Singh (71,68,72); 212_Binod Pandey (75,67,70), Sanjay Kumar (69,68,75). Amateurs: 231_Karan Taunk (79,76,76); 232_Navtez (78,78,76)