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Venetian Macao Open 2016

by SCMP

Venetian Macao Open 2016

Indian ‘brothers’ Anirban Lahiri and Chikkarangappa S. set Macao Open pace heading into final round

The pair lead the way at 10-under-par after three rounds at Macau Golf & Country Club, with five players lurking just a shot off the pace

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 October, 2016, 7:55pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 October, 2016, 12:35am

Close friends Anirban Lahiri and Chikkarangappa S. will be betting a dollar each hole in the final round of the Venetian Macao Open on Sunday, and whoever finishes ahead is likely to walk away with US$198,000.

Lahiri, the far more celebrated of the two Indian golfers at 92 in the world, and the virtually unknown Chikkarangappa are joint leaders of the US$1.1 million Asian Tour event, holding a one-shot cushion over five players.

Lahiri, 29, has finished first or second in the past three editions of the Macao Open, including a victory in 2014, so whoever beats him normally wins.

“We always have fun together and bet a dollar a hole,” says 23-year-old Chikkarangappa, who reckons honours are about even in all the games he has played against his “brother”.

Lahiri (66-68-69) said he had yet to get “hot” at the Macau Golf & Country Club, despite sitting at 10-under-par, and playing with “Chikka” (69-65-69) could provide that spark.

“We both care very deeply for each other, but at the same time we both want to win. If it isn’t me, then I would like him to win,” Lahiri said.

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“We always egg each other on and bring out the best in each other’s game.

“It’s going to be tough. He’s a very fierce competitor and it will be good to battle it out with him tomorrow.

“But it’s not just him and me. There are about 20 guys who have a chance to win.”

Lahiri has yet to find his best this week and is still adjusting his game to changing conditions.

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“It was a bit of a struggle today as you need to hit it as tight as you can. The greens really dried out. I normally let my short game do the work, but I missed a couple of fairways and it was impossible to put it within 10 or 15 feet. It was like landing on concrete,” said Lahiri, the 2015 Asian Tour order of merit winner with US$1.14 million.

“I will have to make some adjustment [for Sunday] and gauge how the golf course is. It is running so fast and I need to hit more fairways.

“I’ve had to adapt my natural game to suit this golf course. I feel like I am playing well. It’s just that I haven’t got hot the whole week. Even on the first day when I shot five under the birdies came in drips and trickles - not a rush.”

Chikkarangappa won only US$31,000 last year and lost his Asian Tour card, but he has had top 10 finishes in his last two events and will keep smiling on Sunday, no matter what happens.

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“It’s a dream come true to be playing alongside Anirban where he has won,” he said. “It’s a long time since we have played competitively - about three years ago and he won by two shots. We will have a blast.”

Chikkarangappa topped the Indian Tour in 2015 and confessed to sleepless nights thinking about why rounds went wrong.

But he was delighted with the way he conducted himself on Saturday when a double bogey threatened to throw him off the tracks.

“One bad shot cost me a double bogey, but I stayed calm and relaxed and told myself to just hang in there and try to make some birdies,” he added.

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“It won’t be the end of the world if I don’t win. There will be more opportunities. I will continue to smile and enjoy myself.”

Fellow Indian Rashid Khan (69-69-66) also enjoyed himself thanks to an eagle at the last hole that catapulted him into a tie for third at nine-under with Rattanon Wannasrichan (68-71-65), Pavit Tangkamolpraset (69-67-68) and Sutijet Kooratanapisan (68-66-70) of Thailand; and Carlos Pigem (64-71-69) of Spain.

Englishman Ian Poulter (64-73-71) is five shots behind and said he was “frustrated after his dream start on Thursday and would be having a chat with himself in his room.”

Defending champion Scott Hend (71-67-71) of Australia is another shot back and will have to shoot the lights out to have a chance of defending his title.

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World number 14 Branden Grace (69-71-72) of South Africa is at one under and will likely spend his final round on Sunday honing his game for the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur next week as he begins the final round nine shots off the pace.