Bengaluru, March 27 (IANS) Om Prakash Chouhan produced a stunning finish with three birdies in the last four holes of the final round to card a bogey-free seven-under 65 that gave him a two-shot win in US$300,000 Black Bull Challenge 2023 at the Karnataka Golf Association (KGA) golf course, here.
The 36-year-old Chouhan, a seven-time winner on the domestic Tata Steel PGTI Tour, finished at 20-under with the day's best card and England's Ashley Chesters (67-68-68-67) and Spaniard Victor Pastor (72-64-67-67) were tied second at tally of 18-under 270 at the event co-sanctioned by the European Challenge Tour and PGTI.
With the new arrangement between the PGTI and the DP World Tour bringing two new European Challenge Tour events to India after a gap of 10 years, Chouhan immediately reaped benefits of that.
The win also gives Chouhan a Challenge Tour card and he now plans to play in Europe, too. His winning cheque of US$48,000 (INR 39,84,000) also catapulted him from 16th to first position in the PGTI Rankings with season's earnings of INR 44,52,750. He could well get to the main DP World Tour because as per the strategic alliance between the PGTI Tour, he topper on the PGTI Order of Merit gets to the main Tour.
While Chouhan topped the charts, the next best Indian was Aman Raj (67-68-71-70) at tied eighth place at 12-under 276.
Chouhan became the third Indian to win on the Challenge Tour following Gaganjeet Bhullar (won in 2011) and Shiv Kapur (won two titles in 2013). It was also the first win by an Indian on Indian soil since Khalin Joshi's triumph at the Panasonic Open India in October 2018. Om Prakash also equalled Udayan Mane's 2017 record for the lowest winning total at KGA.
Chouhan, a winner of seven PGTI titles in the past, saved his best round for the last day as he went bogey-free with three birdies on the front-nine and four more on the back-nine. He hit his wedges close on a couple of occasions to pick up birdies and also made a great par save on the fifth after finding the water hazard.
After a birdie on the 12th and salvaging a good par on the 14th, OP sank a crucial 10-feet birdie on the 15th to draw level with Ashley Chesters who was the leader for most part of the day. Chouhan then birdied 17th from a tough position finished in style with a 10-feet birdie conversion on the 18th.
Chouhan said, "I'm thrilled. It's a huge achievement for me as I had never won an international title previously. I definitely have plans to play on the Challenge Tour in Europe now. This win opens a lot of doors for me so I'm quite excited about the opportunities ahead.
"I just wanted to focus on my strengths and my game and not drop any shots. I had targeted a seven-under at the start of the round.
"I've worked a lot on the mental aspect of my game lately. That has brought a lot of improvement in my game. In the past, if I dropped shots or made mistakes early in the round, I would generally start playing more aggressively. But now, I don't let the errors affect my game too much.
"I followed up a good par on the 14th with a crucial birdie on the 15th that set the tone for my good finishing stretch. The birdie on the 15th was key as it helped me equal the lead. I knew something special was on the cards from there on.
"I would like to thank Mr. Devang Shah for allowing me to play regularly at the Kalhaar Blues & Greens golf course in Ahmedabad. Playing at Kalhaar has made a huge difference to my game," said Chouhan.
Chesters (67) also had a bogey-free day while Pastor (67) made six birdies and a bogey but neither could catch up with Chouhan in the final stages.
M Dharma (70), playing at his home course, finished tied 21st with a total of nine-under 279.
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