Home hero Gaganjeet Bhullar took a stranglehold of the inaugural Gujarat Kensville Challenge after racing four shots clear of the chasing pack on the third day of the €200,000 event, which marks the start of the 2011 Challenge Tour season.
Bhullar, bidding to become the first Indian to triumph on the Challenge Tour, compiled five birdies – four on the front nine – in a superb display at the Jeev Milkha Singh-designed Kensville Golf Club in Ahmedabad, India.
The 22 year old’s round of 68, which featured just the one blemish at the eighth hole, moved Bhullar to eight under par, four shots clear of his nearest challenger Matthew Baldwin of England.
Bhullar said: “I wasn’t playing safe after the turn, I was just trying to keep the ball on the fairway and try to hit the middle of the green, irrespective of the pin position.
“It was also windy as we played in the afternoon, which made it a bit difficult. But I was concentrating so hard that actually I lost track of the wind factor.
“I don’t think you can ever really enjoy a lead in golf. It doesn’t matter if you’re five or ten shots ahead, you can’t ever really relax. But obviously it does give you confidence.
“In the final round, I’m just going to keep the same policy of trying to hit every fairway and green, and hopefully convert a few birdies if I can. It would be great to begin the season with a victory.”
In contrast to his playing partner, joint overnight leader Florian Praegant endured a difficult day, reaching the turn in 40 after carding three bogeys and a double bogey at the fourth hole for the second day in succession.
But to his credit the Austrian staged a miraculous late rally to sign for a round of 73 which moved him to third place on three under par.
Baldwin is one place higher and one shot closer to the leader after notching four birdies in his round of 70. The Englishman birdied the third, sixth, ninth and 15th holes, but gave shots back at the fifth and 13th.
He said: “I’m slowly getting used to the conditions out here. There’s no doubt that it’s a tough course, but it’s also interesting to play because you need to use your brains.
“My driving was fantastic today. I could’ve ended up with at least a couple of more birdies had I putted properly, but it was a good round anyway.
“I know four shots is a big lead to catch, but I’ll give it my best and you never know what can happen over 18 holes of golf. I’m confident of putting on a good show.”
Baldwin’s compatriot Matt Ford is in a tie fourth place on two under par alongside Bangladesh’s Siddikur Rahman. England’s Gary Lockerbie and Denmark’s Mads Vibe-Hastrup share sixth place after both men compiled rounds of 69.