Chikkarangappa wins McLeod Russel Tour Championship, becomes Rolex Player of the Year

Chikka S of IndiaKolkata: It was double delight for Bengaluru’s Chikkarangappa S as he capped a memorable 2015 season with victory at the season-ending McLeod Russel Tour Championship which also paved the way for his ascendancy to the status of Rolex Player of the Year. Chikka shot a tenacious final round of three-under-69 at the Rs. 1.5 crore event at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC) on Sunday to register a one-shot win with a 12-under-276 total.

Gurgaon-based Indian golfing great Jyoti Randhawa and Khalin Joshi, another Bangalorean, were joint runners-up at 11-under-277.

Chikka’s brilliant win at RCGC earned him his highest ever pay cheque of Rs. 22,50,000 which took his season’s earnings to an outstanding Rs. 48,87,440. He thus climbed from second place to first position in the money list to take home the Rolex Player of the Year title.

At 22 years and three months of age, Chikka became the youngest winner of the Rolex Ranking title. In his seven starts in the season he posted three wins, a runner-up and three other top-10s. The seasoned Mukesh Kumar of Mhow, who finished tied sixth at five-under-283 this week, claimed second place on the 2015 PGTI merit list with earnings of Rs. 39,41,710.

Chikkarangappa (68-69-70-69), who was overnight third, three off the lead, had a steady start to the day with pars on the first three holes. He started making inroads with birdies on the fourth and sixth, having converted a 15-footer on the latter. The pro from the Eagleton Golf Resort, made the turn at one-under after dropping a shot on the eighth where his ball was plugged in the bunker.

While Chikka’s nearest rivals Jyoti Randhawa and Khalin Joshi couldn’t really make a move on the back-nine, Chikka seized the initiative with three birdies against a lone bogey. The 22-year-old marched towards his eighth career title, sinking birdie putts from eight to 12 feet on 12 and 17. He also capitalized with a birdie on the par-5 15th after finding the green in two shots. The 2013 PGTI Emerging Player of the Year finally sealed the victory with a two-putt for par on the 18th.

Chikka said, “It’s amazing to win the biggest tournament on the PGTI and also the Rolex Ranking title on the same day. Emerging Order of Merit champion is special for me because I’ve been finishing second on the merit list for the last two years. I’m also delighted to have won here at RCGC since I missed cuts for three weeks running on the Asian Tour before this event.

“It was a tough fight today as I knew Jyoti and Khalin will not give up till the end. I think the turning point for me was the 12-feet birdie conversion on the 17th. That’s when I thought, I can take this, since I was one ahead with one hole to play. I didn’t strike it well through the week but my short-game was very sharp. I made very few birdies at this event as compared to my other successful weeks.

“The change of caddie this week also helped my cause. I had Anirban Lahiri’s previous caddie Narasimha on the bag this week. His inputs were quite useful. The focus will now be on making it back on the Asian Tour through the Qualifying School and thereafter doing well on the tour,” added an elated Chikka.

Jyoti Randhawa (68-65-71-73), the overnight leader by one stroke, slipped to joint second place on Sunday after mixing three birdies with four bogeys during his final round of 73. Jyoti, who had struggled with stomach crampson Saturday, scrambled for most part of the final round and was three-over through 15 holes. Despite his tap-in birdies on 16 and 17, Randhawa could not catch up with Chikka.

“I was in a much better physical condition today but couldn’t really produce a round that could’ve helped me win on the final day. Nonetheless, I’m glad to have finished in the top-3 after all that I went through in the third round,” said Randhawa.

Khalin Joshi (70-67-68-72), lying overnight second, one behind leader Jyoti, showed promise in the first half of the day as he took the lead at one stage. However, he finally brought in a card of 72 and had to settle for tied second place along with Randhawa. Joshi was three-under through seven holes, having sunk three birdie putts from 10 to 20 feet. Khalin, a two-time winner on the PGTI, then missed some short putts to add three bogeys to his card.

Joshi said, “It was disappointing that I couldn’t close it despite taking the lead today. A bad tee shot on the eighth that landed in the hazard took away the momentum from me. I’ll now look to earn my card on the Asian Tour through the Qualifying School and make an impact there.”

Kolkata’s SSP Chawrasia, the 2012 champion, fired the day’s joint best score of 68 to finish fourth at 10-under-278. Rahil Gangjee (71), another local favourite, finished three shots behind in fifth place.

Mukesh Kumar (68) of Mhow and Sri Lankan Anura Rohana (70) were tied sixth at five-under-283.

Kolkata’s Shankar Das, the 2014 champion, ended eighth at four-under-284 after his final round of 75.

Bengaluru’s Udayan Mane, who finished tied 20th this week at one-over-289, won the 2015 PGTI Emerging Player of the Year title for recording the highest earnings among the rookies this season. Mane’s earnings for 2015 stood at Rs. 22,21,507. Mane also finished a creditable fifth in the Rolex Ranking. Feroz Singh Garewal of Chandigarh, tied 27th this week, finished second in the Emerging Player list with season’s earnings of Rs. 6,81,040.