Rashid in command; battle brews for Surya Nepal Masters title

Kathmandu: The battle for honours grew intense after the penultimate round`s proceedings even as Rashid Khan of India increased his lead to two shots after shooting 2-under 70 in the Nepalese Rs 4 million Surya Nepal.

It was his third successive under-par card in as many days at the par-72 Gokarna Resort Golf Club.

The 20-year-old from Delhi was 14-under 202 and is being chased by his fast improving countrymen Harendra Gupta who shot the day`s lowest score of 66 and Mandeo Singh Pathania, who played a roller-coaster round of 71 and Sri Lankan Mithun Perera (70), who are all tied for the second spot at 204.

Even as the quartet at the top jostled for the lead, Nepal`s leading professional Shiva Ram Shreshta won the hearts with his attacking form of golf.

Shiva`s round of five-under 67 was laced with six birdies and an eagle, which he made on the par-4 ninth after driving the green and holing out an uphill putt. The bulky pro`s effort put him in the fifth spot, four shots behind the leader.

Bangladesh`s Mohd Sayum occupied the sixth place at 210 while Sanjay Kumar was seventh at 211.

Followed by a motley crowd today, Rashid Khan looked his calm self even as his playing partner Mandeo who took the lead on the third hole after sinking his second birdie of the day.

However, the pro from Jaypee Greens Mandeo made a triple bogey on the eighth to lose the advantage.

Meanwhile, Harender Gupta had an eventful beginning on the first four holes making three birdies and a bogey.

"I can`t say that I do not feel butterflies in my stomach as this would be my first professional title," said Rashid.

"I will try to make this week memorable for me. A lead of two strokes is not that big enough to sit back and take it easy as Mithun, Mandeo, Harendra and Shiva Ram are good players," he added.

Mithun Perera, who had a forgettable front nine shooting two-over par, played a superb back nine making consecutive birdies on the 12th and 13th and 17th and 18th.

The final day`s paring has three of the longest drivers of the ball -- Mandeo, Shiva Ram and Mohd Sayum and with players bunched together it surely seems like a Super Sunday.


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