N Thangaraja outplays rivals with last round 66, ends long wait for title at Vizag Open 2023 -
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N Thangaraja outplays rivals with last round 66, ends long wait for title at Vizag Open 2023

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Champion N Thangaraja (2nd from right) receives the trophy from Shri K S Jawahar Reddy, IAS, Chief Secretary to Govt. of Andhra Pradesh (4th from left).

Khel Today Bureau 

Visakhapatnam: Sri Lankan N Thangaraja had a dream final round of six-under 66, the day’s best score, to outplay all his rivals at the Rs. 1 crore worth inaugural Vizag Open and end an agonizing five-year long wait for his fourth TATA Steel PGTI title.

Colombo-based Thangaraja (71-73-70-66), who was overnight tied ninth and trailing the lead by a massive seven shots, literally pulled a rabbit out of the hat on Saturday by overcoming that huge deficit with a sensational and error-free last round to triumph by one stroke at a total of eight-under 280 at the pristine East Point Golf Club (EPGC) in Visakhapatnam.

Chandigarh’s Akshay Sharma (67-68-73-73) finished runner-up at seven-under 281 as a result of his fourth round of 73.

The quartet of Samarth Dwivedi (68), Om Prakash Chouhan (69), Saarthak Chhibber (70) and Harendra Gupta (69), took tied third place at six-under 282.

Thanga, as he is popularly known, bagged the winning cheque worth Rs. 15,00,000 to take a giant stride from 24th to sixth position in the TATA Steel PGTI Rankings and become the 11th winner on the PGTI this season in as many events. It was also his overall sixth professional win (with two wins coming on the Sri Lankan Tour). The 42-year-old ever-smiling Thanga will now be heading to Hangzhou, China, to represent his country at the Asian Games.

Thangaraja, playing three groups ahead of the leader group, made an early charge with long birdie conversions on the second and fourth holes and a great approach to set up a tap-in birdie on the fifth. He added another birdie on the par-5 seventh after finding the green in two shots.

After making the turn at four-under for the day, Thanga made further inroads on the back-nine. His tee shot on the par-3 11th lipped out of the hole but handed him a birdie and an accurate approach on the 15th left him a three-footer for his sixth and last birdie of the day.

Thanga’s 66 proved to be good enough for the top prize as some of the other leading contenders such as Akshay Sharma (73), Sunhit Bishnoi (76), Trishul Chinnappa (74) and Shivendra Singh Sisodia (75), struggled with their games on Saturday, shooting over-par scores and thereby blowing away their chances.

Round three leader Sunhit finished seventh at five-under 283 while Trishul and Shivendra were a further two shots back in tied eighth.

Thanga said, “I was just focusing on my own game today. I was in tremendous hitting form and landed the ball close to the hole on many occasions. Despite the five lipped-out putts, I had a decent day with the putter. I thought a score of seven to eight under could win me the title, so that was foremost on my mind after I had a great front-nine.

“I’m thrilled to win after such a long gap because I also came close to winning last season and this season. The EPGC is quite a challenging track and a world-class course. I look forward to coming back here next year. The win gives me loads of confidence ahead of the Asian Games and the rest of the season.

“My special thanks to my friend and fellow professional C Muniyappa for being my club-fitter. I got a new set of clubs before the second half of the season and got them fitted from Muniyappa in Bengaluru. He did a great job with my clubs which has in turn made a huge difference to my game.”

Akshay Sharma’s second-place finish lifted him from 39th to 15th place in PGTI’s money list.

Om Prakash Chouhan of Mhow who finished tied third at Vizag continues to lead the TATA Steel PGTI Rankings with season’s earnings of Rs. 68,03,042.

Visakhapatnam’s Rahman Mehboob Shorif ended the week in tied 49th place at 12-over 300.

Final Leaderboard:

280: N Thangaraja (71-73-70-66)

281: Akshay Sharma (67-68-73-73)

282: Samarth Dwivedi (68-71-75-68); Om Prakash Chouhan (69-70-74-69); Saarthak Chhibber (68-73-71-70); Harendra Gupta (67-76-70-69).

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