AJEETESH SANDHU - Sandhu’s stunning 5-wood when the chips were down in Chandigarh

A sizeable Sunday crowd had gathered at the Chandigarh Golf Club (a club that probably holds the record for the greatest golf traffic on any course in the world) on the final day of the 2019 Jeev Milkha Singh Invitational Presented by Take Solutions.

A year before, during the inaugural edition of the tournament, the fans had witnessed a play-off battle between local lad Karandeep Kochar and Chikkarangappa S, which was won by the Bengaluru pro.

Another local favourite – Ajeestesh Sandhu – was in contention once again, and there was no doubt whom the fans were rooting for.

However, it was Delhi pro Rashid Khan who provided all the fireworks early on. Five birdies in the first six holes saw him leading by two at the turn, and there was no letting up as he extended his advantage to three with another on the tenth hole.

That was when the sweet-swinging Sandhu came into his own. Just when things were looking bleak, he made birdies on the 13th, 14th and 17th holes to reach the 18th trailing Khan by one shot.

Sandhu got his par on the 18th, but Khan three-putted for a bogey, paving the way for a second successive play-off in the two-year-old history of the tournament.

Back on the 18th tee, Khan made a terrific 30-footer for par on the first extra hole to extend the battle. After they halved the next two holes, the advantage was firmly with Khan on the fourth extra hole when he smashed a superb drive to leave himself a 115-yard second shot from the centre of the fairway.

As for Sandhu, the trees lining up the 18th fairway conspired against the man they had seen grow up. It looked like a good tee shot from Sandhu, but it clipped an overhanging branch some 150 yards out, and fell straight down. That left him with a 250-yard approach shot, with water all along the right side and edging closer near the green.

“I had 250 yards to the flag with a bit of wind into and off the right and possibly the smallest target I could imagine at that point. Also, the flag was tucked just over the water – about three yards in and three or four yards from the right edge of the green,” remembers Sandhu.

“Rashid was in a great position and I at least needed to give myself a chance to make a par. I hit the best shot that was possible in those circumstances. It was a high fade against the wind to about 20 feet.”

As luck would have hit, the 18th hole once again proved a tough nut to crack for Khan. Aiming to knock down the flag, the Delhi pro found water instead and wound up with a bogey. Sandhu safely two-putted for a par and his fourth and biggest win on the PGTI Tour so far.

By Joy Chakravarty (@TheJoyofGolf)

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