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Sweet homecoming for Chiragh, wins Panasonic Open on home turf

It was a sweet homecoming for Delhi golfer Chiragh Kumar, when he holed his short par putt on the 18th and final hole in the final round of the Panasonic Open India 2015. It sealed his maiden Asian Tour title in front of his wife, Namrata, daughter Aynaz, parents and friends among the packed galleries at the Delhi Golf Club course.

Chiragh, who virtually grew up on the fairways and the greens of the DGC, picked up his breakthrough title with a total of 13-under aggregate of 275.

Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh, who had 10 Top-10 finishes going into the Panasonic Open India, kept Chiragh on his toes through the day. Finally Siddikur, with Chiragh still in his sights, made one of his rare bad swings off the tee on the 17th that let Chiragh off the hook for a making a clean home run.

Chiragh took home US $ 72,000 for his win and with it came an exemption for 2016, but he had already made his card for next season. “The most important thing is I was finally able to get over the line.”

Siddikur, who had a recurrence of his back injury, needed a physio on the fourth tee box. He later said, “I thought I wasn’t able to play because I was hurt but the physiotherapist gave me some treatment on the fourth tee box and I felt better. I’m happy that I finished my round. I didn’t put any pressure on myself to do well or win because I could feel the pain in my back. The win didn’t come but it is okay.”

Siddikur, who also bogeyed 18th ended in a tie for second with Thaworn Wiratchant (69), who also had made an early run, but then petered out.

In more ways than one, it was poetic justice for Chiragh. It was here in 2011 that he finished second at the Hero Indian Open and it was also here three years ago at the same Panasonic Open India tournament that he picked up an ankle injury that affected his results for close to year. “Winning an Asian Tour event means a lot to me. I have come close once or twice in the past. I have actually been playing well for the last month and winning at the Delhi Golf Club makes it very special. I have grown up over here seeing senior players playing at this course and wanting to be at that stage and experiencing it today is really a dream come true,” said an emotional Chiragh.

The Delhi-based golfer reaped the rewards for the hard work that he put during the off season. “It’s has been a long off-season and put in a lot of hard work during the off-season. So a couple of weeks back when I finished second in Macao (last month), it was a big confidence boost. I have just taken it from there and played well,” he added.

Chiragh who held lead from the second round onwards knew that with Siddikur breathing down his neck, it’s not going to be easy. When the Bangladeshi came within one stroke of the lead, Chiragh held on to his own game. “I always knew he (Siddikur) is going to be a tough guy to beat when he was one shot behind me. I was lucky that he didn’t get off to a hot start and he gave a shot away on the fourth. I had a two-shot lead at that time, but I gave it right back on the fifth. Then he birdied the sixth...so it was neck-and-neck all the way. I just kept myself together and played well and told myself that ‘I need to do, what I need to do. If he runs away with it so be it.’ I was just trying to play my own game,” said Chiragh.

He further added: “I made a bit of a mistake on the 16th tee. I made a bad swing. It was ok because the recovery was good and made par there. Siddikur didn’t hit a good tee shot on the 17th and that gave me a little bit of edge because I was playing after him. So I safely put it on the green knowing that it’s going to be tough for him to make a par. That gave me a two stroke advantage. So I knew if I don’t hit the bush on the 18th, I am going to win the tournament.”

Soon after the turn Chiragh was caught up by Siddikur as the Indian dropped a couple of shots. But a birdie on 11th put him one ahead and another birdie on 13th put him two clear. Chiragh had a great chance with a three-foot birdie putt to go three ahead, but he missed. 
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