Updated March 30th, 2024 at 20:58 IST

Hero Indian Open: Veer Ahlawat in contention at sole sixth as Nakajima continues to lead

Ahlawat maintained his sixth position with a 69 -- his third straight round in the 60s -- as he remained the top Indian among the eight who had made the cut after the second round on Friday.

The Timeless Appeal of Golf | Image:Freepik
Advertisement

Veer Ahlawat kept himself in the hunt at the Hero Indian Open being sole sixth as Japan's Keita Nakajima shot a 68 to double his lead after the third round at the DLF Golf & Country Club here on Saturday.

Ahlawat maintained his sixth position with a 69 -- his third straight round in the 60s -- as he remained the top Indian among the eight who had made the cut after the second round on Friday.

Advertisement

Ahlawat has a three-day aggregate of 12-under par 204 and is six strokes behind leader Nakajima, who doubled his lead at the top from two to four shots after the third round. Nakajima is currently at 18-under.

Nakajima may have fallen short of the pair of 65s that defined his first two rounds, but his 68 was good enough to make him the favourite in the USD 2.25 million tournament.

Advertisement

India's Manu Gandas returned an incident-packed 2-under 70 for a share of 13th place on 8-under par 208, while Aman Raj was next best at 6-under par 210 with cards of 68-68-74. Raj was hit by a snowman eight on the Par-5 fourth and that proved costly as he slipped to tied-24.

Ahlawat mixed five birdies with two dropped shots as he made good use of his familiarity with the course to stay inside the top-10 for a second straight day, capping his round with a closing birdie before a packed gallery.

Advertisement

Nakajima, playing his rookie season on the DP World Tour, is chased by Malaysian Gavin Green, who was the runner-up at this event in 2017.

Green opened the week with a very modest 72, then shot 66 in the second round and flew past all but Nakajima with a 64 on the third round for tied second.

Advertisement

Sharing the second spot with Green was Frenchman Romain Langasque, whose 70 included a late double bogey on Par-3 16th. Green and Langasque are 14-under and lying in tied fourth is another Frenchman Jeong weon Ko (69) at 13-under with Matteo Manassero (70).

"This being my home course helps. I mean I know which side of the green to miss if I miss it, so that I won't drop a shot. It was a solid round. I hit the ball well, my putting was good.

Advertisement

"My bunker play was also in shape today. I started a little slow but finished on a high note. Tomorrow, I am going to try to stay focused, try to go low," said Ahlawat after the day.

Gandas, who had six birdies against four bogeys on Saturday said, "Today, I had some bad breaks along the way and some of the good putts that didn't fall in, but overall it was a decent round.

Advertisement

"Home advantage definitely helps. I think we should be able to capitalise on it, just stick with the game plan that we already have and see how it ends. I would say my hitting and putting has not been very good, but I've been able to manage.” Nakajima has been on top of the leader board since Day 1 and followed up back-to-back 65s with a 68 to get to 18 under and match the biggest 54-hole lead of the season so far.

Nakajima, seeking a first DP World Tour win in just his 11th start, has four victories on the Japan Golf Tour, one of them as an amateur in 2021 during the record 87 weeks he spent at the top of the World Amateur Golf Ranking before becoming a pro.

Advertisement

Three victories in five months last year helped him top the Order of Merit on the Japan Golf Tour and earn his card on the DP World Tour, with his best result so far being fourth at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship.

A win here would make him the fifth Japanese winner in DP World Tour history and the third in just over six months.

Advertisement

Starting two shots behind Nakajima, Frenchman Langasque birdied the first from 10 feet and that set up a fantastic nip-and-tuck battle between him and Nakajima over the front nine.

Langasque had his chance when Nakajima bogeyed and he birdied the eighth, but on the back nine the Japanese star had three birdies against one bogey. But a late double on 16 and a bogey earlier meant Langasque shot 70 and fell four behind. 

Advertisement

Published March 30th, 2024 at 20:58 IST