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Sanjay ends Harinder's run

Special Correspondent

To meet Uttam Singh Mundy in final

NEW DELHI: Sanjay Kumar produced a timely 25-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to end Harinder Gupta's dream run, in the semifinals of the all-India SRF matchplay championship at the Delhi Golf Club course here on Saturday.

A little earlier, Uttam Singh Mundy, a quarterfinalist in 2002, completed a fairly comfortable 3 and 2 victory over pre-match favourite and last year's semifinalist Rafick Ali.

On Sunday, Sanjay and Mundy will play a 36-hole final spread over two sessions for the first prize of Rs. 2.25 lakh. Harinder and Rafick will fight over 18 holes for the third prize of Rs. 66,000.

Harinder has only himself to blame for losing to someone whom he dominated almost all day. While Sanjay just about managed to stay afloat, Harinder was 2-up after the fifth and the 14th holes. But all credit to Sanjay for keeping his cool, especially on the 18th hole where he had a pressure putt for birdie from about eight feet after Harinder had almost holed his `eagle' putt from over 30 feet.

Harinder had looked sharper of the two for the better part of the day. But he blew away his two-hole lead following a bogey on the 16th and by conceding the 17th hole after kicking the ball in disgust on being disallowed a `relief' by referee C.S. Shetty. Harinder's tee-shot on the par-3 17th had stopped just ahead of the tyre marks and he sought relief on the ground of that the raised mud obstructed his swing.

Missed chance

After a closely fought 18th and 19th holes, where both players birdied, Sanjay's birdie on the 20th put Harinder under pressure for the first time during the day.

As it turned out, Harinder's missed birdie-putt proved decisive.

"The 17th hole was the most crucial one for me," said Sanjay after the match. "I did not putt well today but overall my game was good. After I missed a three-foot putt on the 13th hole, I was really low on confidence but I regained it by a hitting a good 4-iron to just seven feet (from the flag) on the 16th."

Harinder, very disappointed for allowing his rival to come back and win, chose to play a round of cards with his friends immediately after the round. "I am not happy with my performance. My putting let me down when it mattered," said the youngster who had put out Arjun Singh and Mukesh Kumar on way to the semifinals.

Unlike Sanjay, Mundy never trailed on this day. His first of the six birdies came on the opening hole. He went on to match Rafick's birdies on the second and sixth holes before going two up on the sixth with a six-foot birdie. Though Mundy's lead was down to one after he bogeyed the eighth hole, he was again up by two following a birdie on the 11th hole. Mundy lost to a par on the next before Rafick bogeyed the 13th. An eight-foot birdie-putt on the 14th saw him keep Rafick at bay. Mundy's confident play put too much pressure on Rafick on the 15th and he gave up the hole. When the players halved the 16th hole, Mundy was a comfortable winner.

"In matchplay competitions, you have to look for birdies," said Mundy, just a victory away from winning his first title on the Tour after The Hindu Open title in 2003. "Today, I concentrated on hitting greens in regulation and kept the pressure on Rafick. I kept getting birdies at regular intervals and that was the key today."

The results (semifinals): Sanjay Kumar bt Harinder Gupta 20th hole; Uttam Singh Mundy bt Rafick Ali 3 and 2.

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