Kolkata golfer SSP Chawrasia produced a gusty performance under difficult circumstances to clinch the coveted Hero Indian Open Golf Trophy. It was a victory long over due. It has been so near yet so far stages for him as he finished runners-up on no less than four occasions since 1999.
He beat defending champion compatriot Anirban Lahiri and South Korean Jeughun Wang by two strokes to clinch his third European Tour and fourth Asian Tour title. Lahiri, who started the fourth and final round four strokes behind his groupmate and eventual winner, shot a three-under 69, but a good score wasn’t enough to halt Chawrasia’s victory chariot. Neither Wang’s bogey-free four-under 68 could upstage Chawrasia from driver’s seat. Chawrasia totalled 15-under 273 while Lahiri and Wang at 13-under 275.
The victory gave Chawrasia a prize purse of $276,660 and European Tour playing privileges for the remaining current and two more years. He is expected to break into world rankings 150 to have a strong chance to make India’s Rio Olympics squad.
He said ace golfer Jeev Milkha Singh’s timely advice helped him hold nerve in crucial moments on the last day. “Yesterday evening, I called Jeev Milkha to take his advice on how I should overcome pressure on Day 4. He told me to focus only on my game and ignore others. He said even if my rival was making four birdies on a row, he was also feeling the pressure, so I needed not to be in his awe. His words worked wonders for me.”
Earlier in the day, Chawrasia started the day two strokes in front of first-day leader Terry Pilkadaris of Australia and four ahead of Lahiri. While Pilkadaris succumbed to pressure to finish 15th after a fourth-round four-over 76, it was best-ranked Indian Lahiri, who emerged a potential threat to Chawrasia.
Lahiri, a specialist at DGC where he has won four international titles, started the day in a fashion where he appeared to add one more to his tally, as he blasted three birdies in a row on the opening as many holes. He came closer to one stroke of Chawrasia and caught up with him on the sixth hole where the latter dropped a bogey. Chawrasia raised his game to a few notches and regained lead with an eighth-hole birdie.
It seemingly put pressure on Lahiri who fell two strokes behind the leader with a bogey on ninth hole. Chawrasia’s happiness was shortlived when he sank a bogey on 10th, but he brought smile back to his face with a birdie on 13th. He and Lahiri capitalised on par-5 14th hole where both knocked in a birdie each.
Chawrasia was one stroke ahead of Lahiri when the contest moved to par-5 18th hole. Chawrasia had a poor second shot there, but he staged a superb recovery when his third shot from 100 yards stopped three feet off the flagstick to give him an easy birdie chance. Lahiri also produced an easy birdie chance but he missed it to finish second.
It was Chawrasia’s day and as soon as he holed the birdie putt, the generous crowd surrounding the 18th green burst into applause to celebrate the victory of the 37-year-old Kolkatan, who, 17 years back, missed out on the same title by a whisker in his first of four runner-up finishes.
|1.||SSP Chawrasia (India) (67, 67, 68, 71) 273|
|2.||Anirban Lahiri (India) (68, 71, 67, 69) 275|
|Jeughun Wang (South Korea) (67, 74, 66, 68) 275|
|4.||Angelo Que (Philippines) 276|
|Adilson Da Silva (Brazil) 276|
|6||Rashid Khan (India) 278|
|Gregory Havret (France) 278|
|Daniel IM (USA) 278|
|N Thangaraja (Sri Lanka) 278|