Amandeep Drall drilled a confident six-footer for a final birdie to take sole lead with a bogey-free 67 on the third day of the US$ 400,000 Hero Women’s Indian Open. She takes a one-shot advantage into the final day over Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall (68) and German Olivia Cowan, whose bogey-free 65 equalled the week’s best card.
Aditi Ashok added to the excitement with an eagle two on the Par-4 ninth during her round of 69 lying fourth and Gaurika Bishnoi (72) despite a bogey on the 18th was fifth, making it three Indians in the Top five.
Of the top five, only Hedwall (2011) and Ashok (2016) have previously won the Hero Women’s Indian Open, while Drall, Cowan and Bishnoi are yet to register a win on the Ladies European Tour.
Even as Drall and Hedwall were engaged in a tight battle, German’s Olivia Cowan, tied ninth on her last visit to India, was charging up the leaderboard. After four quiet pars to start, she caught fire. Cowan birdied six of the next seven, including five in a row from the seventh. There was one more on the 14th for the day’s work of 7-under which was without a blemish. She may still have felt disappointed at missing a birdie on the 18th, where many others picked a shot.
Drall, who logged her first LET Top-10 only recently in the Swiss Ladies Open, and Hedwall, who has finished in Top-2 three times in four starts at the HWIO, played superbly on the front nine.
Hedwall played the front nine in 4-under 32 and moved to 9-under. Drall, stayed patient despite some birdie putts not dropping on the first five holes. Then the putts did fall three times between the sixth and the ninth to turn in 3-under. At that stage, Hedwall led the field at 9-under and Drall was one behind.
Then came the dramatic 10th, where Hedwall missed and made a bogey and Drall holed a neat birdie for a two-shot swing and the places had been swapped at the top of the leaderboard with the Indian at 9-under and the at Swede 8-under.
Speaking of the tournament so far, Drall said, “I had a good start on the first day with a bogey-free 67. Then it was a steady round on the second. So, I was all geared up for today. The front nine was very scoring because they moved a couple of tees in front and couple of pins were accessible so you could have made birdies and that’s what I did today. I had quite a few pars to begin with. I hit them decently close but the putts didn’t drop, but then they (fall) did in the last couple of holes on the front nine.”
Talking of patience, Drall added, “On this golf course you have to stay patient. The greens are rolling quick so you got to keep giving yourself chances till the very end and hope you can make the putts whether from close or from a little further out. Today there were a couple of mid-range putts which I holed starting on the sixth and seventh they were like about 18, 19-footers. That gave me a nice momentum.”
Like Drall, the smiling 33-year-old Swede, Hedwall, did not drop a shot on the front nine. Then came back-to-back bogeys on 10th and 11th. Thereafter she was playing ‘catch-up’ and finally she ended day one behind.
Hedwall said, “The back nine here on this course is actually quite tough. I had a couple of good breaks on the front nine and then I had a couple of bad breaks on the back nine and that's what made the difference today. On the front nine, I played really well, I hit it fairly close and just made the putts. I didn't really miss anything on the front line.”
Speaking after her bogey-free round, the 26-year-old Cowan said, '“I’ve played well both days of the week really, and so I felt quite comfortable with my game. It is a difficult course, so you never really know what's going to happen. I mean, a big number can be around the corner at any point, so you just kind of have to stick to what you've been doing and be patient out there.'
Aditi Ashok, who has been missing out on a lot of putts, did roll a few, but also dropped three bogeys on front nine. “I have not had the putts going for me, but I did get an eagle, when I drove the green and holed a 50-footer, probably my longest putt this season.”
Gaurika Bishnoi stayed patient and battled the whole day with two birdies and two bogeys over the first 16 holes, before a birdie on 17th gave her a chance to move up before she dropped a shot on 18th to be fifth.