Jeev Milkha Singh Invitational 2019: Chandigarh gofler Ajeetesh Sandhu delights home crowd with spectacular comeback
Chandigarh’s Ajeetesh Sandhu pipped Delhi’s Rashid Khan in a photo-finish amid high drama much to the
delight of the home crowd on the final day of the Jeev Milkha Singh
Invitational 2019 Presented by TAKE Solutions, a Rs. 1.5 crore event played at
the Chandigarh Golf Club.
Ajeetesh, playing at his home
course, made a spectacular comeback in regulation play before coming through in
a marathon playoff that lasted four extra holes. It was a classical contest for
the ages that saw Sandhu collect the winning cheque worth Rs. 24,24,750 that
catapulted him from 48th to second position in the TATA Steel PGTI
Order of Merit. Rashid extended his lead to over Rs. 34 lakhs in the PGTI’s
money list despite his heart-breaking loss. Khan’s PGTI earnings for 2019 now
stand at a whopping Rs. 61,21,653.
Ajeetesh Sandhu (66-69-67-66) and
Rashid Khan (71-64-67-66), the joint leaders after round three, headed for the
playoff on Sunday after ending up with identical totals of 20-under-268 in
regulation play. It turned out to be the lowest winning score at the Chandigarh
Golf Club (CGC) improving on Rahil Gangjee’s 13-under-275 at the PGTI Players
Championship in 2013.
While, the other Chandigarh golfer Karandeep
Kochhar took third place at 17-under-271 after a flawless 68 in round four.
Abhijit Singh Chadha, another local
lad, matched the course record score of eight-under-64 to take a share of 15th
place at seven-under-281. Chadha’s sizzling round featured an eagle, seven
birdies and a bogey.
The day began with Rashid Khan, a
two-time Asian Tour winner, firing on all cylinders with five birdies on the
first six holes to build a daunting five-shot lead over nearest rival Ajeetesh
Sandhu. The 28-year-old Rashid kept landing it extremely close to the pins on
that stretch. He made two extraordinary recoveries from the rough to extract
birdies on the fourth and fifth. Khan chipped-in on the fifth. When he sank his
fifth birdie of the day on the sixth, it seemed like the writing was on the
However, there was a twist in the
waiting. Ajeetesh Sandhu, who began the day in the joint lead with Rashid,
missed a couple of short putts early on and had only a birdie and bogey to show
over his first six holes. But then Ajeetesh, a winner on the Asian Tour in
2017, got some momentum going in his round as he drained three straight birdies
on the seventh, eighth and ninth, courtesy some outstanding iron-play that
reduced Rashid’s lead to just two shots.
The two players then picked up two
birdies each over the next five holes to maintain status quo. Thereafter, the
31-year-old Ajeetesh made a crucial 15-feet birdie conversion on the 17th
while Rashid made an uncharacteristic three-putt bogey on the 18th.
The see-saw battle continued during the playoff as Rashid made an unbelievable 30-feet par putt on the first extra hole where Ajeetesh too came up with an excellent approach from the rough. On the second hole, Rashid’s putt lipped-out from eight feet to deny him victory. Finally, on the fourth extra hole, Ajeetesh won the battle of nerves as he made par while Rashid’s challenge faded away as he found the water hazard with his approach.
Ajeetesh, who bagged his fourth
title on the PGTI and fifth overall, said, “It has been a really solid week for
me. I’m delighted to win on my home turf and in front of my home crowd. It’s
something I’ve always dreamt of.
“I’ve been playing some great golf
in recent weeks and this is a good culmination to that. The three birdies on
the seventh, eighth and ninth were the key to my round as they kept me in the
game. The long birdie conversions on the 14th and 17th
also played a part in getting me within striking distance of the title.
“I thought I had it on the first playoff
hole but Rashid came up with an exceptional putt. But I hung in there. It’s
always different in a playoff as you’re not playing against the course but
against one player. One thus goes into a playoff with a different mindset. I
did well to make that mental adjustment.
“I’ve played in a few leader groups
this year including Taiwan where I finished tied second two weeks back. So the
experience of dealing with pressure situations in the recent past helped me during
today’s playoff. I’m now excited about the rest of the Asian Tour season,”
added Sandhu, currently ranked 15th on the Asian Tour money list,
the highest among the Indians.
The PGTI record for the longest
playoff was also matched on Sunday. The two previous playoffs on the PGTI that
lasted four holes were played at the PGTI Players Championship at the Noida
Golf Course in 2013 and at the Delhi-NCR Open also at the Noida Golf Course in
While Kolkata’s Divyanshu Bajaj finished fourth at 13-under-275, the Chandigarh duo of Aadil Bedi and Akshay Sharma took joint fifth at 12-under-276. Sri Lankan Mithun Perera was a further shot back in seventh.
Rory Hie of Indonesia, the leading foreign name in the field, finished tied eighth at 10-under-278.
Indian star Jyoti Randhawa took a
share of 11th place at nine-under-279.