Randhawa one off lead, tragic disqualification of Ghei

March 1st, 2008 - 8:49 pm ICT by admin  

By V. Krishnaswamy
Gurgaon, March 1 (IANS) Despite being in the second lead group, the focus was never on Taichiro Kiyota. But by the end of the third round of the Johnnie Walker Classic, the 27-year-old Japanese got into pole position with a five-under 67 for a total of 14-under 202. And to boot his wedge play was the envy of playing partner Jyoti Randhawa. Randhawa was tied one shot behind in the second place with last week’s SAIL Open winner Mark Brown (67) of New Zealand at 13-under 203. Two Englishmen, a flu-hit Graeme Storm (69) and Philip Archer (69) shared the fourth place with Australian Greg Chalmers (68).

Kapur (72), the overnight co-leader, was tied seventh, while other leading Indians Jeev Milkha Singh (70) and Arjun Atwal (67) were in tied 12th; and Mukesh Kumar (67) and Rahil Gangjee were in tied 21st.

The heart-wrenching story of the day was that of Gaurav Ghei. Coming in from the cut-line after second round, he burnt the course with a seven-under 65 to rise to nine-under and second in the clubhouse.

Even as he submitted the scorecard, he was taken to the TV compound to see tapes of the round. The hour-long deliberations found there was indeed an infringement and the ball had moved on the 18th. Ghei did not see it and played and signed his card without a penalty.

The incident was reported to the committee by an off-duty referee. On studying TV tapes, chief referee John Paramor, who got a text message in the morning, had no option but to disqualify Ghei. The irony is if Ghei had called a penalty on himself last night, he would have missed the cut and not played this morning.

A devastated Ghei, three-time winner on the Asian Tour, said: “It’s deeply disappointing and it’s a shame that all the people around and the referee did not spot the incident near the 18th green.”

On the course, Randhawa, like most other Indians Saturday, was at the receiving end of golf’s fickle fortunes. He played up and down, was grateful for the lucky breaks that came his way and escaped with a four-under 68 that kept him just a shot behind Kiyota, playing only his second year on the Asian Tour, and in Mark Brown’s company. Brown, winner of his maiden pro title last week at SAIL open, shot a 67.

“The way I played today, I am very pleased to be one shot behind. I recovered well on the way back. Tomorrow is another day. Let’s hope I can keep it all together and play well,” said Randhawa.

Kapur was at his physical best of the week, but scrambled all day long with six birdies, six bogeys and six pars.

“It was a struggle all day. I was just trying to hang in there. But it was a good late recovery. I like coming from behind because the pressure is all on the leader,” said Kapur, whose three birdies and one bogey in the last five holes gave him a 72 that kept him at 10-under and four shots behind Kiyota.

Jeev continued with his struggle on the greens and missed a series of birdie chances, lipped out a lot and left a few others short. “It was quite frustrating as putting is the key and I couldn’t get going. But there is one more day,” he said despite being six behind the leader.

Among the few Indians who made good progress was Arjun Atwal, who after an opening hole bogey played great golf for six birdies and a score of 67 that saw him join Jeev at eight-under 208 in tied 12th.

Arjun Singh, Digvijay Singh and Gaganjeet Bhullar all shot 73 each, but were placed 44th, 48th and 52nd. Rahul Ganapathy (74) was even at 64th.

Kiyota played steadily before exploding in the latter stages of the front nine, when he gained four shots between the sixth and ninth with an eagle and two birdies. On the back nine, he was once again very steady with six pars before getting a birdie on the 16th.

On the 18th, Kiyota first and then Randhawa went over the green, landed on the cart path from where the ball bounced and landed in the public grounds.

Randhawa pitched beautifully to land just off the green from where he two-putted for par. Kiyota went one better with a soft wedge shot that was barely three feet from the cup, from where he came back with a birdie and the sole lead at 14-under.

Brown, lost in all that action, was content with two eagles, one on either side of the turn. He could afford the luxury of dropping three bogeys and still come home with an eight-under 64, the best round of the day.

Kiyota, a regular on the Japan Tour for three years, turned to the Asian Tour only in 2007. The 27-year-old Kumamoto-born player had numerous top-10s in Japan, but after playing the Qualifying School in December, he decided to give the Asian Tour a shot in 2007. Now bigger successes could be in store for him.

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