New Delhi, 28-02-2014


Sri Lanka’s Mithun Perera tied overnight leader Rashid Khan of India for the lead at the Asian Tour’s season-opening SAIL-SBI Open presented by Incredible India Ministry of Tourism before a thunderstorm forced the suspension of the third round on Friday.
The straight-shooting Perera, bidding to become the first Sri Lankan to win on the Asian Tour, battled to three under par through eight holes and 13-under for the tournament when officials abandoned play at the Delhi Golf Club due to inclement weather.
Khan, who led by four overnight, was one over through seven holes while Bangladeshi star Siddikur Rahman moved to within one stroke of the co-leaders with birdies on the first and seventh holes in the US$300,000 event co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and PGTI.
Two-time champion Anirban Lahiri of India kept alive his hopes of becoming the first man to win the same tournament in three successive years, although he is poised to bogey the ninth hole to fall two off the pace.
Perera, 27, is geared up for a marathon Saturday, with the third round resuming at 7.30am and the players heading out for the final round in the same groupings from 9 am.
“I’m waiting to win a title on the Asian Tour. Hopefully, it will be tomorrow. It’s exciting but the key is to keep under par. I’ve got to play good again. Hopefully I can have a good start. I’m prepared to play 27 holes. I’m used to it, playing two rounds a day,” said Perera, who birdied the first, second and sixth holes to tie Khan.
With Khan also chasing for a maiden Asian Tour title and Lahiri and Siddikur lurking, Perera knows there will be no margin for error at the ultra-demanding Delhi course. “I’ve just got to play good to win it. Everyone is playing well. I had a good start and on every hole, I hit driver as my tee shots were so good. Made a few birdies with some good iron shots but missed a few too. It will be important to stay on the fairways. If I can do that, I can do something tomorrow,” said the likeable Perera.

Khan, 23, was happy to hear the siren suspending play at 1.22pm before officials eventually called off the round at 3pm. The slender Indian has slept with the overnight lead since his first round heroics of 61 and hopes the shortened day would prove to be a blessing in disguise.
“I think the rain came at the right time. I was one over and the day wasn’t going the way I wanted to. There are a lot of holes to play tomorrow. I’m hoping for a good day,” said Khan, the reigning Rolex Rankings champion on the PGTI.
“It’s going to be a big day tomorrow. I’ll have 28 holes to play, we’ll see what happens. Today, I started really bad and didn’t make any birdies. I will need to start with a birdie in the morning, need a good round going.”
Siddikur, who qualified to represent Team Asia in the inaugural EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM against Europe in Malaysia next month, looms as a big threat to Khan and Perera. The Bangladeshi was victorious at the fabled Delhi course when he won the Hero Indian Open in November.  
“It’s going to be a long day for all players. You have to be fit and be prepared for 28 holes. I’m looking forward to it. I’m feeling confident and I hope to enjoy the day. I’ve not seen this sort of thunderstorms in India for a long time, it is like in Malaysia and Dhaka,” said Siddikur.
Lahiri, who finished a career high third on the Order of Merit last season, is 12-under through eight holes but is poised to drop a bogey on nine after missing a short par putt before the siren blew. He birdied the first, third, fifth and eighth holes.

“I missed a small putt for par. I was waiting for the siren to go but things like this happen,” lamented the 26-year-old, who will represent Team Asia in the EurAsia Cup.
“I’ll be two back, I’m in a good spot. It will be important to conserve mental energy as you have to focus so hard around here. I’m glad I’m playing with Mithun (in the same group) as we are great friends. We are joking and kidding around. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere out there. It’ll be good for the two of us.”
Lahiri knows he must chase for the win as he does not expect Khan or Perera to buckle under the pressure of trying to claim a first Asian Tour victory. “I don’t think it’ll be a big deal for Rashid and Mithun. Rashid has won prolifically in India and this is his home course. I don’t think he’ll be nervous. As for Mithun, everything he touches now seems to turn to gold. He’s won the last three events in India. He’s on a juggernaut now. The challenge will be for Siddikur and me to apply pressure on them. If we can do that, it’ll be interesting,” said Lahiri.

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Formed in 2006, Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) is the recognised official body of professional golf in India. PGTI's objective is to promote professional golf in the country, as well as to give players an opportunity to be involved in the decision making on all aspects of the game. Headed by Mr. Srinivasan H R (President), PGTI's governing body comprises leading Indian golf professionals. PGTI currently has over 300 members.

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