Sunday, May 9, 2021

Kochhar’s win on third extra hole makes it back-to-back titles for him, takes him into the lead in PGTI Order of Merit

Chandigarh’s Karandeep Kochhar fashioned a remarkable come-from-behind win at his home course, the Chandigarh Golf Club, after prevailing in the playoff against Indian star Anirban Lahiri thus lifting the trophy at the Rs. 1.5 crore Jeev Milkha Singh Invitational 2020 Presented by TAKE Sports. The tournament was decided in a playoff for the third year in succession.

Twenty-one-year-old local favourite Kochhar, who began the tournament with a disastrous four-over-76 to lie tied 76th after round one, made a grand comeback with his next three rounds of 66, 67 and 68 to end up in a playoff with pre-tournament favourite Lahiri after both totaled 11-under-277 for the week.

Karandeep (76-66-67-68) and Anirban (70-68-70-69) were in a deadlock after being tied at the end of the first two playoff holes on Sunday. The match was then extended to Monday due to the fading light. They resumed the playoff with the third extra hole at 9 am on Monday. This was the first time in PGTI history that a tournament was extended by a day.

Kochhar, who began the final round in sixth place and three off the lead, went through a rollercoaster of emotions on Sunday after incurring a one-shot penalty for accidentally causing the ball to move on the 17th hole which as a result forced the match into a playoff. Karandeep finally showed great mental fortitude to come back and prevail on the third playoff hole on Monday making a 15-feet birdie conversion even as Anirban missed his 12-footer for birdie.

Kochhar, as a result, made it back-to-back wins on the TATA Steel PGTI having won the previous event on the tour at the same venue last month. This was Karandeep’s third title and second win as a professional on the PGTI. He had won his first title on the tour while still an amateur in 2016. Interestingly, the Chandigarh lad had lost out in a playoff to Chikkarangappa in the first edition of the tournament back in 2018.

Kochhar’s win pushed him up from second to first position in the PGTI Order of Merit as his winning cheque of Rs. 24,24,750 took his season’s earnings to Rs. 33,50,680. Pune’s Udayan Mane is now second in the PGTI money list with earnings of Rs. 19,24,150. Karandeep also earned 5 Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points for his win which propelled him from 442 to 355 in the world rankings, a gain of 87 spots.

Kochhar said, “I got good advice from Jeev Sir last evening who told me to believe in myself no matter what the situation. It means a great deal to me having made such a good comeback after starting with a 76. Winning two events in a row is special and I feel I can continue this winning spree further at the next event in Jamshedpur as I’m playing the best golf of my life right now. Having played 15-under in the last three rounds, I attribute this win to my positive mindset as I trusted my game despite the poor start to the week.

“I went on the range this morning and practiced some drivers and wedges. I knew the flag was easier with water not in play so my focus was on hitting a good drive down the middle to set up a 100 yards full sand wedge approach and then get inside 10 to 15 feet of the pin to put the pressure on Anirban. I managed to execute this strategy well. I feel I always have an edge over most players here at my home course. I’m always confident of scrambling well here even when I’m not playing at my best. So that contributed to my self-belief this week.

“A goal of mine at the start of the year was to win the Order of Merit. I’m now leading the money list so I’m on track to achieve my objective.”

It was a memorable outing for PGA Tour regular and seven-time international winner Lahiri too who returned to play an event on the PGTI after over six years.

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