Ramsay struggles, but holds on to lead

Lahiri cards days best; Kapur four off the pace

Richie Ramsay encountered his first struggle of the Hero Indian Open but managed to stay marginally in front as a slew of other title contenders found their range under gloomy skies here on Saturday.

Brilliant so far in the tournament, the Scotsman endured an average third-round outing in the wind and intermittent drizzle, managing a sedate one-under 70 to total 202 and hold a slender one-shot lead at the Karnataka Golf Association.

Finland’s Jaakko Makitalo struck his second successive 68 to stay in second place while record 14-time winner on the Asian Tour and 2005 Indian Open champion Thaworn Wiratchant sprung into contention with a brilliant 67 to share the third place with compatriot Panuphol Pittayarat (69) and England’s James Morrison (67) at 204.

Disappointing days

After two disappointing days that left a lot of his home fans dejected, Anirban Lahiri finally dished out the golf that he is capable of, firing the day’s best card of 66 to haul himself back into the title race. But at 207, a score he shares with three-time Indian Open winner Jyoti Randhawa (67), last year’s runner-up Chiragh Kumar (67), Gaganjeet Bhullar (70) and amateur S Chikkarangappa (66), Lahiri has some catching up to do.

Shiv Kapur, who had sli­pped down the order on day two, gave himself a good cha­nce of winning the crown that he has dreamt of since childhood, shooting a 68 for a total of 206, four shots behind Ramsay.

“It was harder to fight the winds today, but the key was I needed to make some putts and I didn’t,” said Ramsay. “It’s been the story of the last few days -- haven’t made the putts. If you’re leading the tournament putting the way I did, it’s slightly surprising.

“If you continue the good striking and make a few more putts, I can definitely post a better score.”

Although most of the pros found the deceptive greens hard to contend with in the opening two rounds, Ramsay has been in a zone of his own. Striking the ball beautifully and reading the greens remarkably, the Scotsman had overtaken his more illustrious European Tour player Peter Hanson.

However, Saturday turned out to be a bit of a struggle for Ramsay. After making a fine start with a sizzling 25-footer birdie on the second hole, the 29-year-old fluctuated from the ordinary to the brilliant with his driving and iron play -- his big strengths -- while the putter froze in the cold weather.

Missed attempts

He missed birdie attempts by a whisker on the third and fifth holes before incredibly three-putting from five feet on the par-3 eighth hole for his first bogey in 35 holes. The rare error seemed to have played on his mind when he misfired his tee shot, the ball landing into the cart path amidst the woods. However, he chipped it back brilliantly onto the fairway before nailing the ball to within 12 feet from the pin and then holing it easily for his second birdie.

Ramsay, who thrives on the par-5s, notched up his third birdie with a three-foot putt on the 11th post but his struggles with the short game pulled him back.

He bogeyed the 17th after erring with his drive and three-putting. Makitalo, whose best finish this season has been tied 22nd at the Selangor Masters, could have finished the day level with Ramsay but for a closing hole bogey – his third of the round. He had sunk four birdies and an eagle on the 11th for the second straight day for a wonderful day in the office.

Wiratchant, meanwhile, set himself up for a second Indian Open with a blemish-free 67. He covered the front nine at three-under with birdies on the fifth, seventh and eighth holes to raise visions of an encore. But, the birdies dried up after that surge, the fourth and last coming on the 12th.

Third-round lead scores

Leading scores (after 54 holes, ‘A’ denotes amateur): 202: Richie Ramsay (Sco) (66, 66, 70); 203: Jaakko Makitalo (Fin) (67, 68, 68); 204: Panuphol Pittayarat (Tha) (67, 68, 69), James Morrison (Eng) (66, 71, 67), Thaworn Wiratchant (Tha) (69 , 68, 67); 205: Chapchai Nirat (Tha) (67, 68, 70), Angelo Qui (Phi) (68, 68, 69), Arnond Vongvanij (Tha) (71, 67, 67); 206: Shiv Kapur (Ind) (67, 71, 68); 207: Jyoti Randhawa (Ind) (72, 68, 67), Chiragh Kumar (Ind) (69, 71, 67), S Chikkarangappa (A) (72, 68, 67), Anirban Lahiri (Ind) (70, 71, 66), Gaganjeet Bhullar (Ind) (68, 69, 70), Scott Hend (Aus) (71, 66, 67).

Key tee-offs

10.10: Peter Hanson.
10.20: Gaganjeet Bhullar, S Chikkarangappa.
10.30: Jyoti Randhawa, Chiragh Kumar,  Anirban Lahiri.
10.40: Shiv Kapur, Chapchai Nirat,  Angelo Cue.
10.50: Arnond Vongvanij, Panuphol Pittayarat, Thaworn Wairatchant.
11.00: James Morrison, Jaakko Makitalo, Richie Ramsay.

Note: All from first tee.

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