Jha extends lead to six shots

Bangalore, Oct 31 (IANS) Local challenger Abhishek Jha blasted a seven-under-65 to zoom into a healthy six-shot lead in round three of the Asian Development Tour’s TAKE Solutions India Masters golf tournament, at the Eagleton Resort, here Friday.

Jha’s third round effort at his home course included two eagles and took his tournament total to an impressive 19-under-197.
R. Murthy and Chikkarangappa, both in joint second, six shots off the pace, ensured the top-3 on the leaderboard were all Bangaloreans. Murthy shot the day’s best score of eight-under-64 at the $70,000 event.
Jha (66-66-65), who fired scorching rounds of 66 on the first two days, went one better Friday. The 27-year-old’s third round 65 helped him extend his overnight lead by four shots.
After pars on the first six holes, the 6 feet 5 inches tall Jha, picked up birdies on the seventh and ninth to make the turn at two-under for the day.
Jha made the first of his two eagles courtesy a mammoth 40 feet putt on the 10th. A birdie followed on the 11th thanks to a perfect drive, but Jha dropped a stroke on the very next hole against the run of play.
The lanky golfer collected his second eagle of the day with another 40-feet conversion on the 15th. The icing on the cake for Jha was the birdie on the 17thAwhere he drove the green.
“I putted out of my skin today. Every putt felt like a five-footer. I didn’t expect to make so many putts so I guess I got a bit lucky as well. The two eagles were set up by some great ball-striking as I found the green in two on both occasions before rolling in those long putts,” said an excited Jha, who is now staring at his maiden title.
Jha, the 2010 PGTI Emerging Player of the Year, added: “I’m delighted with today’s effort as seven-under is my best at Eagleton.
“It’ll be fun playing the last round with my regular playing partner Chikkarangappa. We play together almost every day and that’ll help me play in a more relaxed frame of mind.”
Murthy (71-68-64) came up with the day’s best of 64 to close round three in joint second at 13-under-203. He had three birdies till the 10thAbut then took off with an astounding run of five consecutive birdies from the 14thAthrough the 18th. Leading third round scores:
Murthy, whose best result has been a runner-up finish on the PGTI, landed his tee shot within a few inches on the par-3 14thAand sank a 30-footer on the 16th. He also had a couple of good chip-putts on the final stretch.
“I’m pretty happy to have matched my career-best single-round score today. I had a feeling that a low number is just around the corner for me since I had been shooting low scores during practice few weeks back at KGA.
“I had a few good pars to begin with and then made some fabulous chip-putts for birdies. I’ve put some distance on my driving thanks to my coach Gaurav Diwan. I’m currently striking the ball better than ever before and that’s been the key this week,” said Murthy.
Murthy’s coach Gaurav Diwan incidentally had an eagle-two on the 18th Friday and ended round three in tied 25thAat two-under-214.
Chikka (64-70-69), who had four birdies and a bogey Friday, sustained a minor injury on his left wrist while hitting a chip shot on the 15th. He bogeyed the 15thAand then came back well with two birdies on the 16thAand 18thAafter some icing on his wrist.
Five golfers were bunched together in tied fourth at nine-under-207. Among them were, the Bangalore duo of M Dharma and Khalin Joshi, Gurgaon’s Deepinder Singh Kullar, Irishman Niall Turner as well as Swede Nils Floren, who shot a 62 in round two. SSP Chowrasia posted a bogey-free 69 to be tied 18thAat five-under-211.
Leading scores after third round: 197- Abhishek Jha (IND) 66-66-65; 203- R. Murth (IND) 71-68-64, Chikka S (IND) 64-70-69; 207- M Dharma (IND) 67-71-69; Niall Turner (IRL) 67-70-70; Deepinder Singh Kullar (IND) 67-69-71; Khalin Joshi (IND) 67-69-71; Nils Floren (SWE) 71-62-74; 208 a” AN Thangaraja (SRI) 69-72-67, Pijit Petchkasem (THA) 65-73-70; 209- C Muniyappa (IND) 69-68-72.