Saturday, 25 May 2024

STAYED ON COURSE | Golf: Indian American Akshay Bhatia one round away from Augusta berth, seeks second PGA Tour win

IANS | Updated on Monday, April 08, 2024 10:48 AM IST
Golf: Indian American Akshay Bhatia one round away from Augusta berth, seeks second PGA Tour win

SAN ANTONIO: Akshay Bhatia stayed on course for a last-minute Masters berth and a second PGA Tour title as he took a four-shot lead after 54 holes at the Texas Open.

Bhatia birdied his last two holes at the TPC San Antonio for a 4-under 68, taking a four-shot lead over Denny McCarthy into the final round as he tries to get the last spot in the Masters.

He was at 15-under 201. After McCarthy, the next closest player to the lead was Brendon Todd, who shot 70 and was seven shots behind.

McCarthy was the only player who stayed close to the 22-year-old Bhatia. He was helped by his three birdies in a four-hole stretch in the middle of the back nine.

Bhatia on his part hit a perfect drive on the reachable par-4 17th to just short of the green, which featured a front pin. His pitch wasn't anything special, but he holed a 12-foot putt. On the closing par 5, he laid up and hit wedge to a back pin to just inside 10 feet and made the birdie putt. He had a four-shot lead. Bhatia's lead is the largest in 20 years at the Valero Texas Open. McCarthy has his work cut out.

With a message "Race My Race" Bhatia who had worked with a psychologist, has been working extra hard on the mental game.

Rory McIlroy opened with a double bogey, got those two shots back with birdies, dropped further back with a pair of bogeys on the back nine and finished with two birdies. He shot 72 and was 10 behind in his final tournament before going to the Masters.

A victory would give Bhatia the final spot in the Masters, set aside in case the Valero Texas Open winner is not already exempt. He also would be exempt for the U.S. Open with his second victory since last June.

Bhatia won the Barracuda Championship last summer, which was held as an Alternate Event during The Open Championship.

McCarthy has never won on the PGA Tour, but he makes his Augusta National debut next week as he is in the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking.