Kolkata, 26-12-2014

Rashid Khan matches course record with phenomenal 63 to move into second; Emerges contender in Rolex Rankings

Shubhankar Sharma enjoys slender one-shot advantage; Atwal's 66 pushes him up to tied sixth

It turned out to be an eventful second day at the McLeod Russel Tour Championship as Delhi's Rashid Khan matched the course record at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC) with a phenomenal nine-under-63 to climb from overnight tied 14th to second place at 10-under-134. Rashid, currently fourth in the Rolex Rankings, has now also emerged as a major contender for the Rolex Player of the Year title. Gurgaon's Shubhankar Sharma maintained his overnight lead after a round of three-under-69. Shubhankar is now one shot clear of Rashid at 11-under-133.

Chikkarangappa of Bangalore, who closed the day in third place at nine-under-135, continues to be another top contender for number one position in the 2014 Rolex Rankings.

Indian golfing great and local favourite Arjun Atwal came up with the day's second-best score of 66 to rise from overnight tied 22nd to tied sixth at six-under-138.

Rashid Khan (71-63), a two-time winner on the Asian Tour this year, followed up his sedate opening round of 71 with an incredible 63 on Friday to match the course record which was earlier jointly held by American Edward Fryatt and Arjun Atwal. While Fryatt achieved the feat during his 1997 Indian Open triumph, Atwal equalled the score en route a tournament victory in 2001.

The 23-year-old Rashid produced a hat-trick of birdies from the fourth to the sixth, landing it within six feet on two occasions. This was followed by three birdie conversions from a range of 15 to 20 feet on the ninth, 10th and 13th. The icing on the cake for Rashid was the eagle-birdie combination on the 15th and 16th. He hit an accurate three-iron second shot from long range on the par-5 15th to set up his eight-foot eagle putt.

“I had a feeling that I would shoot a six or seven under today since I made some subtle changes in my putting stroke after yesterday’s round. I made the changes as I needed to feel good with the putter. These changes seemed to have worked for me as I converted some long putts in round two. It’s great to equal the course record. I’ve always done well at RCGC, having won two amateur tournaments here. I also won last year’s Rolex Rankings after finishing sixth at RCGC during the 2013 edition of the McLeod Russel Tour Championship. I’ll therefore head into the last two rounds with loads of confidence,” said Rashid.

The prolific Khan added, “It’s been a terrific year for me so far with three wins under my belt, including two on the Asian Tour. The international exposure this year has helped me raise my game. I know I’m now also in contention to retain my Rolex Player of the Year title, but instead of focusing on that, I’d like to just play to my potential in the last two days of the season.”

Shubhankar Sharma (64-69) mixed five birdies with two bogeys to hold on to the lead on Friday. While the 18-year-old knocked in three long birdie putts, including a mammoth 35-footer on the eighth, he also dropped two bogeys as a result of errors in club-selection.

“My driving was probably better as compared to round one but my iron-hitting wasn’t that great. I also didn’t enjoy a good start today. I’ll look to improve on my iron-play in the next two rounds. I feel I just need to keep grinding it out and make the first six holes and the last four holes count as those holes present the most scoring opportunities,” said Shubhankar, currently ranked 11th in the Rolex Rankings.

He added, “I held my own in a high-pressure situation at the Panasonic Open last month by finishing fourth. So I know I can face the tough challenge this week as well.”

The 21-year-old Chikkarangappa kept himself in the hunt for the title this week as well as the Rolex Rankings crown after a round of 69 that placed him third, two strokes off the lead. 

Gaganjeet Bhullar and Delhi’s Shamim Khan are joint fourth at seven-under-137.

The Kolkata duo of Arjun Atwal and Shankar Das occupies tied sixth place at six-under-138. Shankar (70), currently third in the Rolex Rankings, is also a contender for the Rolex Player of the Year title.

Atwal followed up his quiet opening round of 72 with an error-free 66 on day two that featured an eagle and four birdies to gain eight places from his overnight tied 14th position. Arjun landed his approach shots within three feet for birdie on the 14th and eagle on 15th and sank two long birdie putts on the seventh and ninth.

Atwal said, “I landed it closer today and my putting was a little better as compared to round one. I’ll look at shooting a score of around six-under in round three in order to stay in contention. I’m very proud that our young golfers such as Rashid, Chikkarangappa and Shubhankar are playing so well.”

Rahil Gangjee, another local lad, lies joint eighth along with Delhi’s Chiragh Kumar at five-under-139.

Rolex Rankings race heading for exciting finish

The race for the Rolex Player of the Year title is wide open with three major contenders in the fray. Second-ranked Chikkarangappa with earnings of Rs. 39,75,836 could seal it with a runner-up finish at the McLeod Russel Tour Championship even if fourth-ranked Rashid Khan, who has earnings of Rs. 27,19,800, wins the event and adds to his kitty the winning cheque of Rs. 23,77,500. The runner-up finish would guarantees a cheque of Rs. 16,27,500. Third-ranked Shankar Das needs a top-2 finish at the year-end event to have a realistic chance of bagging the crown. Das’ chances would also depend on Rashid and Chikka’s finishes.

About McLeod Russel:
McLeod Russel India Limited (McLeod Russel) is the largest tea production company in the world in the private sector. McLeod Russel, along with its subsidiaries, currently produces about 120 million kilograms of tea over a cultivable area of 38,000 hectares, employing nearly 1, 00,000 in personnel. The geographical spread of the tea estates of McLeod Russel and its subsidiaries are situated in Asia (India & Vietnam) and Africa (Uganda & Rwanda). McLeod Russel also has operations in the Middle East, through its subsidiary in Dubai, engaged in tea blending and trading activities. India, as a single geography, has the largest share of its produce – with the estates located in the states of Assam and West Bengal (Dooars).

About Royal Calcutta Golf Club:
The world-renowned Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC), affectionately known as the ‘Royal’, is steeped in history, as it is the oldest golf club outside of the British Isles, having been established in 1829. It is widely regarded as the founder of the game in the country and has staged some of the most prestigious tournaments on Indian soil, including the Indian Open and the All India Amateur Championship. The 7014-yard course favours long hitters and inaccurate shots are punished severely. The large number of water hazards makes this course a real challenge to master.

About Taj Bengal:
Taj Bengal, a city landmark in downtown Kolkata, and part of the Tata Group, is just 3 kms from the city’s commercial centre and is the nearest luxury hotel to Government Offices and Consulates. Located in the city’s greenest precinct, it is within walking distance of the Victoria Memorial, the Royal Calcutta Race Course, the Horticulture Gardens, the National Library and the Zoological Gardens. The hotel completed 25 years of welcoming guests in October 2014, and has hosted dignitaries such as Secretary of State Clinton, the Dalai Lama, Bollywood stars and senior business leaders, and other international VIPs and celebrities.

About PGTI:

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.

For information on PGTI, please contact:

Nikhil Kalaan

Media Manager - PGTI

Mobile: 9910974846

Email: media@pgtofindia.com