Defending champion S.S.P. Chawrasia of India remained in prime position to retain his Hero Indian Open 2017 title after staying in a three-way tie for the lead when play was suspended due to darkness on Saturday.
The five-time Asian Tour winner stood at six-under-par for the tournament alongside England’s Eddie Pepperell and Spaniard Carlos Pigem through 11 holes of the third round at the DLF Golf and Country Club’s Gary Player course.
Malaysian rookie Gavin Green, playing on a sponsor’s invite, made a brilliant charge by snaring six straight birdies from the fifth hole to lie one back of the co-leaders with one hole to finish on Sunday morning. He was six under for the day after starting the third round six off the lead.
With over four hours of play having been lost on the first two days, 42 of the 69 players who made the cut, will have to return to finish round three on Sunday morning.
Chawrasia and Pepperell, were playing in the lead group with Malaysian Danny Chia, who had joined them at the top after 36 holes. They were all at five-under after 36 holes, but then Chawrasia and Pepperell moved to six-under after another 11 holes.
While Chia dropped back because of a quintuple bogey on the second hole of the third round, when he first shot out of bounds and then into water and also had a three-putt, Pigem joined the other two with a sterling four-under through 11 holes in third round.
Scotland’s Duncan Stewart made a hole-in-one in the second round when he holed a six iron from 178 yards at the fifth to drive home a BMW M3.
Last year’s runner-up and 2015 champion, Anirban Lahiri, survived some tense moments before the cut, and later made up some ground by being three-under through 16 holes in the third round. He is now two-over for the tournament and placed Tied-19th, almost 30 places higher than where he was after two rounds.
Gavin Green, who had a sizzling run of six birdies at one stage was six-under through 17 holes and at five-under for the tournament. He was sitting one shot off the lead with one hole to play in the third round after holing a chip in the twilight with his final shot of the day.
Chawrasia, who has four runners-up finishes besides last season’s victory at his National Open, is seeking to become only the third player to win back-to-back Indian Opens. The only ones before him are Kenji Hosoishi of Japan in 1967 and 1968 and Jyoti Randhawa in 2006 and 2007. Chawrasia will also become only the second Indian to win four European Tour events and the first to win four European Tour events in his own country.
He missed a short putt to bogey the second but bounced straight back, holing from the fringe at the fourth and adding another birdie on the ninth.
“I stuck to the same game-plan that I have had for the first two rounds,” he said. “I just want to hit straight, keep the ball in play and keep giving myself chances all the time.
“The key is not to give away loose shots. Birdies are so difficult to find on this course and they require a lot of hard work, so to give away a bogey is painful”, he added.
Pepperell lost his card last season but reclaimed it at the Qualifying School and is now aiming for a first European Tour win.
After five opening pars, he dropped a shot on the sixth as he failed to get up and down from an awkward stance before back-to-back gains on the eighth and ninth moved him back to the summit. Earlier, the Englishman had made three birdies in his final four holes as he played the last 16 of his second round on Saturday.
Spaniard Pigem produced some amazing iron play and birdied the first, second, seventh, eighth and 11th while dropping a shot on the sixth.