Saturday, 01 March 2008

Japan’s Taichiro Kiyota pulled off a miraculous birdie in his last hole to edge ahead of India Jyoti Randhawa and New Zealand’s Mark Brown after the third round of the Johnnie Walker Classic.

Kiyota had moved into a three-way tie for the lead with a birdie on the 16th but looked to be in all sorts of trouble after overshooting in the final green into the grandstand. However, he played an exquisite pitch to five feet to set up an unlikely birdie for a round of five under par 67 and a 14 under par total of 202 on a sun-baked DLF Golf and Country Club on the outskirts of New Delhi.

Randhawa, chasing a home victory which will edge him closer into the world’s top 50  and a place in the Masters next month, carded a 68 while Brown, winner of last week’s SAIL Open in India on the Asian Tour, soared with two stunning eagles for a 64.

The tournament’s big guns, Vijay Singh of Fiji and Australian Adam Scott, endured mixed days. Singh, the World Number 11, battled for a 69 to lie five off the pace while Scott shot a 74 to slip out of contention in the event sanctioned by The European Tour, Asian Tour, PGA Tour of Australasia and PGTI.

Kiyota, who has discovered a new fondness for cricket since coming to India, was understandably delighted with his position and the way he finished his round. “It was a miracle chip on 18 (for birdie) and it will be another miracle tomorrow to win it,” he said.

“My second shot to the 18th, I had too long a club. I went in the water yesterday so didn’t want to be short again. Because of that I hit a three iron and a four iron probably would have been too much. Then the pitch was just a miracle shot.”

Randhawa, who is hoping to become the fourth Indian winner on The European Tour, conceded he was lucky to stay within striking distance of Kiyota. He nearly put it into the water on the 16th and like Kiyota, he also flew a six iron approach past the 18th green before saving par.

“I had two bad shots and one, I got away with it; it was almost a certain bogey or double bogey and I saved par,” said the Indian, who is ranked 77th in the world. “So the way I played today, I think I'm very happy with where I am. Four under going into the last round, I’m quite pleased with myself.”

“I saw Kiyota hit his iron through the 18th green and I was thinking five iron but I took a six iron and thought, you know, with a little bit of head wind, I didn't want to leave it short. And I hit it hard and came over the top. It was just a bad shot and lucky to get away with par there.

“I'm still very pleased to be one shot behind. I recovered well on the way back nine, so like I said, tomorrow is another day. Let's hope I can keep it all together and play well.”

Brown’s form is still red-hot as he broke through for his maiden Asian Tour victory at the SAIL Open in India last weekend. A 50-foot eagle putt on the ninth and a second eagle on the last hole after a brilliant seven iron approach gave him a shot of winning a second successive title.

“I started off this morning with no real pressure and just felt if I can shoot a really good round, I could get into contention and that happened,” said Brown.

“On nine, I had not been going for the green all week and I had a three wood into the green and holed an outrageous putt and that was pretty fortunate.”

Brown gave up touring life for three years where he worked as a junior golf coach in Wellington but a decision to give the Asian Tour another shot in 2007 seems to be reaping the rewards.

“Basically I just wasn't good enough. I gave it up for three years and worked. I had an itching to start playing again and had a fantastic golf coach in Mal Tongue, and more than anything that encouraged me to come back because I knew what he was teaching was simple and correct and it would hold up under pressure and hopefully that going to be the case,” said Brown.

England’s Graeme Storm, struggling in the heat with an upset stomach, battled for a 69 to lie at 11 under par and hopes it could be a good omen as the last time he felt so ill, he went on to win on the Challenge Tour in Morocco.

Compatriot Phillip Archer also posted a 69 to lie at 11 under par and is well placed to mount a challenge for this maiden European Tour title having come so close last year when he finished three times.

Australian Greg Chalmers, who competed on The European Tour in the last 1990s before turning his attention to the United States, is hoping to seize the opportunity for a return to Europe tomorrow having also moved to 11 under par with a 68.

Fiji’s Vijay Singh conceded he made far too many mistakes in his round of 69, which included a mixed bag of seven birdies and four bogeys. “I got myself back in a little but just made silly mistakes. We’ll have a go tomorrow and see if we can

There was heartbreak for Gaurav Ghei of India when he was disqualified from the tournament for a rule infringement on Friday. After shooting what would have been a superb 65 to haul himself up the leaderboard, TV footages showed that his ball had moved at address at the 18th which he had not noticed and as it was an infringement that would have warranted a two-shot penalty, the Indian was disqualified for signing for a wrong second round score.

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