DOHA (Qatar): Gaganjeet Bhullar handled the swirling winds well to bring home an impressive 3-under 68 to rise from T-28 to Tied-third at the end of the third round of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters on Saturday.
Bhullar (67-73-68) is now 5-under and two shots behind the leader, Darren Fichardt (70) of South Africa. England’s Jack Senior (71) is lying second at 6-under.
Shubhankar Sharma shot 75 despite a crippling triple bogey on Par-4 fifth and three other bogeys between 12th and 16th, and was placed T-28.
His earlier rounds were 71-68. The third Indian in the field, SSP Chawrasia missed the cut with rounds of 70-75.
Bhullar, going out early in the second group this morning, birdied third, fifth and sixth and was three-under in six holes.
Thereafter he kept his calm amidst howling winds and dropped just one shot on 12th but also picked a birdie on 16th and parred the rest. On a day when just four players were under par, Bhullar and Frenchman Antoine Rozner (T-4) carded the day’s best of 68.
Sharma birdied second but triple bogeyed seventh. He dropped three more bogeys but also birdied 14th for his 75.
“I had a good start to the tournament, 4- under 67 on day one was pretty solid. Yesterday I hit the ball pretty good and gave myself a lot of birdie opportunities,” Bhullar said.
“I made a few silly mistakes in the beginning, but played well on the back nine. I hit the ball well today and gave myself a lot of opportunities, I drove the ball okay and didn’t miss too many fairways and kept the ball in play.”
“It always comes down to Sunday afternoon. The man with nerves of steel will be the one to win. The goal is to give 100 percent.”
Bhullar, who finished 2020 with a win in his home circuit, the Tata Steel PGTI Tour, is coming off a pair of missed cuts in the Desert Swing.
“This week in Qatar the game has looked good. The confidence I got from the win in Indian is beginning to show. In Abu Dhabi and Dubai, I gave away too much, and even this week I felt that I have played well in difficult conditions but not made use of the easier holes and when conditions have been better.”
In his previous two appearances at the Qatar Masters, Bhullar was T-22 in 2014 and T-31 in 2019.
The 45-year-old Fichardt, the winner in Qatar in 2003, used all of his experience in very difficult windy conditions to card a 70 and open up a one shot lead. The previous Qatar Masters win came at the Doha Golf Club.
Fichardt moved to 7-under in the windy conditions and leads by one shot over England’s Jack Senior, who carded 71.