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Khalin Joshi was runner-up at the 2015 Bangladesh Open and 2017 TAKE Solutions Masters.
Joshi’s total of 17-under-271 was the joint lowest in the history of the tournament as he equaled Shiv Kapur’s record from last year.
Joshi became the fifth Indian to win an Asian Tour title in 2018 after Shubhankar Sharma (Maybank Championships), Rahil Gangjee (Panasonic Open Japan), Gaganjeet Bhullar (Fiji International), Viraj Madappa (Take Solutions Masters).
Breaks the Asian Tour barrier
It all came down to the final hole in the Sunday showdown at Panasonic Open India. Or perhaps, it was down to years of experience. Having come close on a few occasions, Khalin Joshi had faded on the fourth day many times and there were signs the Bangalore-based golfer could have taken that path again.
Holding the overnight lead with Siddikur Rahman at 13-under, Khalin conceded two bogeys in the first three holes to awaken the ghosts of the past. But instead of being cowed down by expectations and negative memories, the 26-year-old summoned up all the patience he had promised himself and believed the opportunities would arise in the next 15 holes.
“It wasn’t so much down to nerves but poor decision making. I knew there was a lot of golf left to be played,” he said after his round of 68 and total of 17-under had dismissed “the monkey off my back”.
As a see-saw battle continued in the $400,000 event between Siddikur (69) and Ajeetesh Sandhu (70), the other Indian in the leadergroup, Khalin stayed in the hunt with a series of pars and the birdie on the 8th turned out to be the turning point. “That was a confidencebooster,” he admitted.
Some, including Anirban Lahiri, would tell you that aggression is not the key at the Delhi Golf Club, but that could be the new norm after Khalin’s one-stroke victory. The 10th and 14th yielded the right results and he found himself catching up with the Bangladesh golfer on the 15th with another birdie.
“I have seen many going for it in two for the par-5s but I have been hitting 3-irons. This year, I changed my strategy.”
The par-3 17th was welcoming to both but at the par-5 18th, Siddikur decided to play it safe and Khalin went for the make-or-break driver. “I knew I had the advantage but I had to keep it in play. I got a bad bounce just in the rough. He made a great putt for a par. But hitting it in the fairways and staying out of the bushes is key here,” he said, almost breathlessly, after picking up the trophy and cheque for $72,000.
It was two putts to birdie glory, and a fist pump and a yell was the spontaneous outburst after a breakthrough Asian Tour triumph. The two T2 finishes and near-misses promptly buried but not forgotten, Khalin said he owed it to his commitment. “I played very aggressive yesterday and today and I believed in myself.” Failure is a good teacher. The lessons have been learnt well.
Ajeetesh, meanwhile, faded on the back nine with a bogey setback on the 14th but a birdie on the 18th ensured a smile and a share of third place with Thai Suradit Yongcharoenchai, who incidentally turned 20 on Sunday.
For former Indian Open winner Siddikur, a three-under 69 was not enough and he ended with his third secondplace finish at this event. Although the disappointment showed on his face, he could take consolation from the fact it was his “best result after a very long time.”
Results: 271-Khalin Joshi (Ind) 71-68-64-68; 272-Siddikur (Ban) 67-66-70-69; 274- Suradit Yongcharoenchai (Tha) 66-67-72-69, Ajeetesh Sandhu (Ind) 67-67-70-70; 275-Aman Raj (Ind) 70-68-68-69.