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Bengaluru, February 14, 2020
Pune-based Udayan Mane continued his sizzling form with a playoff victory against Gurugram’s Veer Ahlawat at the Tata Steel PGTI Players Championship here on Friday.
Mane, who also won the last two PGTI events, the Tata Steel Tour Championship 2019 and the Golconda Masters 2020, has now become only the second player after Delhi-based Ashok Kumar to have won three consecutive events on the Tata Steel PGTI. Ashok had achieved the feat during the PGTI’s inaugural 2006-07 season.
Mane (68-67-67-66) fired a fiery last round of 66 to be tied at the top with Ahlawat (67-65-65-71) at a total of 20-under 268 after the regulation 72 holes. The two players then went into a play-off where Mane prevailed on the second extra hole to bag his 10th professional title.
Mane, lying fourth and five off the lead after round three, fashioned a remarkable come-from-behind victory at the Rs. 30 lakh event which was played at his former home course Eagleton. The big-built Mane began the day with a flourish as he played his approaches and wedges well and sank putts from a range of 10 to 15 feet to pick up birdies on the first, fourth, sixth and seventh.
His only blemish came on the ninth where he missed an up and down for a bogey. However, his only bogey was neutralized by his birdie on the 10th. Mane then had a quiet stretch with pars on the next six holes which included an incredible par-save on the 13th. He finally made a late surge with birdies on the 17th and 18th to catch up with Veer Ahlawat.
While Udayan drove the green on the par-4 17th, he followed it up with a 12-feet conversion on the 18th. Both made pars on the first play-off hole.
However, on the second, Ahlawat bogeyed after missing a five-footer for par while Mane walked away with a par and as a consequence the title.
Mane said, “This is turning out to be an unbelievable run for me. My hard work seems to be paying off. I feel I drove it better last week in Hyderabad, but this week I hit my approach shots, irons and wedges much better.
“The crucial moments in my round were the birdie on the fourth where I gave myself a good yardage with my second shot, the par-save on the 13th where I landed my third shot from 90 yards to within a foot for a tap-in and the all-important 12-feet birdie conversion on the 18th that took me into the play-off.
“I began the day with the idea of making the most of my opportunities. But with the crowd on my side and the familiar conditions at Eagleton I felt I had the momentum. Once in the play-off, I knew what it would take to win a play-off at this venue, having seen quite a few play-offs here in the past. I also felt I had the edge over Veer as I had won my only previous play-off while Veer had lost his only previous play-off.
"These situations give me an opportunity to develop my killer instinct even when I don’t have my ‘A’ game,” added Mane, who stretched his lead in the PGTI Order of Merit as his tally read Rs. 11,31,550. He earned a cheque worth Rs. 4,84,950, for his effort at Eagleton.
Mane followed in the footsteps of Ashok Kumar who also won three titles on the trot, between February and March in 2007.
When the updated world rankings are out on Monday, Mane is likely to make a significant jump in the world rankings from his current 303rd position.
The tall and lanky Ahlawat, who began the final round with a two-shot lead, shot three birdies and two bogeys on the front-nine. Ahlawat then missed out on a few birdie opportunities in the second half of his round as he made pars all the way on the back-nine that enabled Mane to draw level with him.
Ahlawat, who finished fourth at last week’s Golconda Masters, thus continued with his consistent run as he moved up from fourth to second in the PGTI’s money list with season’s earnings of Rs. 5,37,550.
Ahlawat said, “My game has been in good shape since the back-half of last season. However, I feel I have to focus more on my performance and my game-plan in the last round.”
Bengalureans Chikkarangappa (67) and Mari Muthu R (69) took a share of third place at 18-under 270. Khalin Joshi (66) secured fifth place at 17-under 271 while Patna’s Aman Raj (76) finished sixth at 13-under 275. Abhishek Jha, another Bengalurean, fired the day’s best round of seven-under 65 to claim tied 21st place at six-under 282.
Shubhankar Sharma (73-71-72-69), who shot his best round of the week, a three-under 69, on the last day, finished tied 29th at three-under 285.