It turned out to be an unbelievable week for Bangladesh’s Md Zamal Hossain Mollah who stole the show on the final day of the inaugural Bengal Open Golf Championship 2019 Presented By West Bengal Tourism & Powered By Tollygunge Club.
The 34-year-old Zamal, who had made a relatively slow start to the event with scores of 68 and 69 to languish at tied 39th at the halfway stage, came roaring back with remarkable bogey-free efforts of eight-under-62 and seven-under-63 over the next two days to clinch the title by one shot at 18-under-262.
The victory was all the more sweet for Zamal (68-69-62-63), who gained 11 places on the last day, as it happened to be his first in India and also brought an end to his painful seven-year winless streak on the TATA Steel PGTI.
Delhi’s Honey Baisoya (64-64-65-70), the overnight leader by two shots, couldn’t replicate his form from the previous rounds as he shot a sedate 70 to settle for second place at 17-under-263 at the Rs. 30 lakh event.
Zamal Hossain Mollah, lying overnight 12th and six off the lead, didn’t look threatening in the early stages of round four as he managed just two birdies on the front-nine, both long conversions on the second and fifth. But his flurry of four consecutive birdies from the 10th to the 13th, thanks to a hot putter, put him firmly in contention.
The Dhaka-based Mollah’s chipping form also helped his cause as he played a couple of exquisite chip shots to set up short putts for birdies on the 13th and 15th and another short putt for the all-important par on the 18th. He thus ended up with the day’s best score for the second day in succession.
Zamal, whose third round of 62 was the tournament’s joint best score, in effect won his third title on the PGTI and second as a professional. He had won the 2009 Bangladesh Open as an amateur at his home course, the Kurmitola Golf Club in Dhaka. The light-eyed Mollah won the same tournament again at the same venue in 2012 but this time as a professional.
The win at Tollygunge, Zamal’s first outside his native Bangladesh, has lifted him from 46th to the sixth position in the TATA Steel PGTI Order of Merit as he took home a prize money cheque worth Rs. 4,84,950. Mollah, who will now bag 5 Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points for his effort, is likely to make significant gains from his current 940th place in the world when the new rankings list is released on Monday, March 18.
Mollah, perhaps Bangladesh’s second most successful golfer after Md Siddikur Rahman, said, “My putting came good after a long time and that’s what made all the difference on the last two days. In the first two rounds, I missed as many as seven putts from a range of three feet. But all that changed from round three onwards. I hardly put a foot wrong since the start of round three and that explains my combined tally of 15-under over the last two days.
“It feels great to achieve my first PGTI win outside my home course and in India. I’m also delighted to have won on the PGTI after such a long gap. I was disappointed to lose out after coming close a few times in recent years. I feel my putting stroke is back and that will help me get better results in the near future.
“The turning point for me today was making four birdies in a row from the 10th to the 13th. The superb bunker shot that led to a tap-in birdie on the 13th really lifted my confidence. I felt I needed two to three more birdies after that but as it turned out just one more birdie on the 15th was good enough.
“I will now carry this form and confidence into the Indian Open which begins in two weeks and also into the Asian Tour event at my home course in Bangladesh which will be played next month.”
Honey Baisoya seemed to be on course to his seventh title when he birdied the seventh and 10th to build a healthy three-shot lead. However, the leader from rounds two and three had a forgettable 13th hole where he hit his drive out of bounds and as a result dropped a double-bogey there.
Baisoya, trailing Zamal by one going into the last hole, had his chance of taking the match into a playoff when he needed a 20-feet birdie conversion on the 18th. However, he missed by a whisker.
Chandigarh’s Karandeep Kochhar (66) and Delhi’s Rashid Khan (68) took a share of third place at 16-under-264.
Shankar Das had the best finish among the Kolkata golfers. He ended tied seventh at 14-under-266.
Kolkata’s Sunit Chowrasia was tied 16th at 10-under-270 while his uncle SSP Chawrasia closed the week in tied 30th at five-under-275.
Bengaluru’s Rahil Gangjee, who returned to his original home course, finished tied 27th at seven-under-273.
Gurugram-based Abhishek Kuhar made a hole-in-one on the eighth during his final round of 68. He claimed 29th place at six-under-274.