New Delhi, 09-03-2013

Lahiri wins play-off to retain title, beats Rashid in play-off to grab SAIL-SBI Open presented by Incredible India in a dramatic finish

India’s Anirban Lahiri successfully defended his title at the SAIL-SBI Open presented by Incredible India, Ministry of Tourism following a thrilling play-off victory over young countryman Rashid Khan on Saturday.

The 25-year-old Lahiri birdied the 18th hole from 10 feet in regulation play to force extra-time and then claimed his third Asian Tour victory with a four-foot birdie conversion on the same hole in front of a large gallery at the Delhi Golf Club.

The two were tied at 15-under after 72 holes after Lahiri birdied the 18th for the fourth day in a row. Then Lahiri birdied the 18th in the play-off yet again – this one for the fifth time this week – and it gave him the title.

Lahiri became only the second Indian to successful defend as Asian tour title – the first was Jyoti Randhawa who did that with Hero Honda Masters in 1998 and 1999 and then again when he won Hero Indian Open in 2006 and 2007.

It was a great week for the Indians, as Lahiri and Rashid were one-two while Shiv Kapur (70) was fourth at 10-under, one behind Bangladeshi Siddikur, who logged his fourth top-5 in last two years at this course. As many as seven Indians finished in top-15 and ties.

There was heartbreak for Khalin Joshi, the early leader in the tournament. He closed the week with a triple bogey on 18th and from a top-5 he dropped to tied 11th. A top-5 would have ensured a spot in the event at Chiangmai later this month. Khalin carded 76 and ended at six-under, while Shankar Das (67) was tied 15th alongside Ajeetesh Sandhu (72) and Vinod Kumar (71) at five-under.
Rashid, 22, gave himself a great chance of a maiden title on the region’s premier Tour with a superb final round of six-under-par 66 which included a closing birdie but he could not prevent a dominant Lahiri, who signed off with a 68, from grabbing the winner’s cheque of US$54,000.

Overnight leader Siddikur of Bangladesh closed with a disappointing 73 to finish third, four shots behind the play off duo while Shiv Kapur of India settled for fourth place after a 70. Thailand’s Pawin Ingkhapradit and Australian rookie Matthew Stieger ended in tied fifth place.

“It’s not sunk in. I’m still in disbelief that I made the putt in regulation and got into the play-off. After that, in the next 15 minutes, I didn’t know what happened. Unfortunately for Rashid, it didn’t work out for him. I feel bad for him as he doesn’t have a card on the Asian Tour. He’s got a bright future ahead of him,” said a gracious Lahiri, who ended the week on 15-under-par 273 with Khan.

The final round of the US$300,000 event, which is part of the Asian Tour’s milestone 10thseason celebration in 2013, was a nail-biting affair with Rashid and Lahiri exchanging leads on the back nine.

The slender Rashid, playing in the penultimate group, brilliantly birdied his 72nd hole from three feet but could do very little as Lahiri coolly matched his closing birdie from 10 feet to force the play-off.

Lahiri was overjoyed to taste victory for the third time at the demanding Delhi course, which he disliked early on in his career. “I feel great winning here again. In regulation play standing over the 10 -footer, I took my time and decided what I wanted to do. I think this is the calmest I’ve ever been in that situation,” said Lahiri.

Rashid, who grew up at the Delhi course, held his head up high. “I played really good. Holed good putts and played really well this week. Starting with a par 72 on the first day and losing in a play-off, it’s disappointing,” said Khan, who picked up US$33,000.

 “In the play-off, I just misread my third shot and hit it too far right (to 15 feet of the flag). I wasn’t too sure of the line and hit it a bit right.  I was expecting Anirban to make birdie in regulation. He’s won here twice before and I knew it was going to be a play-off. I was prepared for it but it didn’t work out.”

Siddikur, who has three top-fives at the course in the past two seasons, started brilliantly with two opening birdies to cement his lead early on but four bogeys in his next seven holes derailed his hopes of a second Asian Tour title.

“Today, I was totally off. My hitting was bad. From the centre of the fairway, I made three bogeys on four, 13 and 17. The balls were going too long,” said the Bangladeshi. “I saw Anirban and Rashid going up the leaderboard but I couldn’t catch them. I couldn’t make the birdies.”

Kapur, who started the day four shots behind the leader, had a double bogey on the second and never recovered. “The setback was at the second early in the round. Being seven back, it was going to be hard. I kept burning the edges today, had a stone-cold putter. Hit a lot of good putts which didn’t drop, especially on the back nine. If they had dropped early, I could have challenged. I needed to hole a few putts but I didn’t. Disappointing but looking forward. The game is good. I’m getting into the hunt often enough. I’m going to Avantha next week and back here again in three weeks. I’m feeling pretty good about that.”

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