Gurgaon: Anirban Lahiri weathered difficult windy conditions to hold on to a two-stroke lead despite carding a two-over 74 on the third day of the Rs 95 lakh DLF Masters golf tournament on Friday.
On a day when gushing winds wrecked havoc and sub-par cards came at a premium, Himmat Rai claimed the second spot with a steady one-under 71 at a three-day aggregate of four-under 212.
Sanjay Kumar improved a spot to third after carding an even-par 72 on the third round at the DLF Golf and Country Club.
Veteran Jyoti Randhawa, who was leading after the first round, slipped further to tied fourth after carding a four-over 76 with a total of two-under 214.
Deepinder Singh Kullar too raised his game and gave fierce competition to Lahiri, before falling prey to a treacherous stretch of the last three holes where he dropped two bogeys and a double bogey.
Overnight third, Kullar was tied for the fourth spot along with Randhawa.
However, it was Gaurav Pratap Singh who scored the best card of the day, a stunning six-under 66, to zoom to tied sixth after lying tied 42nd following cards of 75 and 74 in the first two rounds.
Defending champion Ashok Kumar (69) and SSP Chowrasia (73) too were tied sixth with an aggregate of one-under 215.
The 24-year-old Lahiri, who carded 68 on consecutive days, found it tough to deal with the windy conditions and difficult pin positions and was two-over at the turn, courtesy bogeys at the second and fourth holes.
On his return journey, the Bangalore-golfer dropped another shot at the 11th, before hitting a birdie-bogey stretch at the 14th and 15th holes. He ended the day with a birdie on the 18th hole.
"It was the toughest day of the tournament. I didn`t hit the ball even half as good as I would have liked. The course was playing rough and the greens were much firmer. Also the pins were placed in some inaccessible positions, which made it very difficult to attack," Lahiri said.
"The wind gushed and went dead every now and made it difficult to choose the right yardages. Jyoti and me were finding it difficult to get the speed right today.
"I have to play solid, hit the greens in regulation and try to keep the ball within 10ft away from the pin to give myself realistic chances. Putting will be most important tomorrow," he added.
Himmat, who won his maiden Asian Tour title at the ISPS Singapore Classic, played extremely well in his front nine, picking three birdies at the fourth, sixth and eighth holes. But wind got him in his back-nine as he dropped a couple of bogeys at the 12th and 13th holes.
"I played well but wind got me at the back nine. In the 13th hole specially I misjudged the wind and in the second, I could not negotiate the slope of the green. Otherwise, I played consistently through windy conditions," Himmat said.
"Players have to deal with the wind and if they can consistently hit straight, there would be opportunities. I want to follow my routine and stick to basics and give my 100 per cent to every shot tomorrow," he added.
A 10th tee starter, Gaurav picked up birdies on the 10th, 15th, 17th and 18th holes to make the turn at four-under.
He continued his good run in the front nine, firing birdies on the second and third holes before stumbling to a rare bogey at the fifth. But he ended the day on a high with a birdie on the ninth hole.
"I hit close to the pin today. The conditions were difficult and I am happy I negotiated them well. I made a 50 ft putt at the seventh hole to save a bogey, while at the third, dropped a 20ft birdie putt. I just want to go out and play my game tomorrow," he said.