Mon, Mar 18, 2013 - Page 20 News List

Aiken holds firm to win Avantha Masters in India

Reuters and AFP, NEW DELHI

Thomas Aiken of South Africa tees off on the third hole during yesterday’s final round of the Avantha Masters tournament in Greater Noida on the outskirts of New Delhi.

Photo: AFP

South African Thomas Aiken held firm against a spirited challenge by local favorite Gaganjeet Bhullar to win his second European Tour title at the Avantha Masters in New Delhi yesterday.

The 29-year-old from Johannesburg, who took a three-stroke lead into the final round, won by the same margin with a four-day 23-under-par total of 265.

Bhullar’s eight-under-par 64 ensured he finished second, while Liang Wenchong of China finished five shots behind the leader.

“I’ve been playing very nicely the last four months, not making a lot of mistakes, but just not sinking enough putts,” Aiken, whose 10-under-par 62 in the third round, set up his victory, told the European Tour Web site.

“This week a few went in, I hit some better iron shots which gave me a better chance to sink some putts, and I played some phenomenal golf,” he said.

India’s Bhullar, 24, came out all guns blazing with birdies on the first three holes and an eagle on the fifth, and kept the pressure up on Aiken until the end.

“After a few weeks, no one will remember that I came second. Everyone will only talk of Thomas, but the important thing is that my game has improved,” Bhullar said.

“This tournament was like a putting competition. Everyone was hitting the ball long, it all depended on how you putted. I thought Thomas would make a mistake somewhere, but he played solidly the last two days,” he said.

Aiken’s playing partner Liang was also quick off the blocks with birdies on the second, fourth and fifth holes, but the highlight of his round came with a hole-in-one at the seventh.

However, the South African kept his nerve and maintained the gap to the chasers with a bogey-free card of five-under-par 67 at the co-sanctioned event with the Asian Tour.

“These guys kept coming at me today ... Liang on the front nine and then Bhullar made some amazing birdies coming in,” Aiken said. “It was by no means a walk in the park.”

“I want to dedicate this to my wife Kate ... being the wife of a sportsman is not easy and she supports me so much, so this one’s for you Kate,” he said.

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