Leading the final round all the way, Thomas Aiken won the €1.8 million Avantha Masters golf tournament by a three-stroke margin over a resurgent Gaganjeet Bhullar at the Jaypee Greens course here on Sunday.

Aiken’s second European Tour title came with a flawless round of five-under 67 for a winning aggregate of 23-under 265.

Bhullar, starting the day in the tied-eighth spot and six shots behind the South African, produced his week’s best card of 64. Two strokes behind was China’s Liang Wenchong, whose 69 included a stunning hole-in-one on the 176-yard par-3 seventh-hole.

Aiken, the winner of the 2011 Spanish Open, collected €300,000, Bhullar received €200,000 — the biggest pay-cheque of his career — and Liang, who could afford to bogey the final hole and still retain the third spot, settled for €112,680.

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

Dedicating the title to wife Kate, Aiken said: “Being the wife of a sportsman is not easy and she supports me so much, so this one’s for you, Kate.”

The tally of 23-under is also the lowest winning score in four editions of this mega event. Aiken is also the second successive South African to win after Jbe Kruger.

All down to putting

Bhullar, who birdied the first three holes, owed it to his putting on this day.

“The trick today was putting. At one point, I thought Aiken would drop a shot here or there but nothing of that sort happened. This week, it was like a putting competition out there. Everyone was driving the ball to 300 yards and reaching 16-17 greens in regulation. So it came down to putting that separated the champion from the rest,” he said.

If Aiken was a picture of consistency, Bhullar enjoyed the high of a curling 40-foot putt for eagle on the fifth hole, and the agony of the lone bogey — on the eighth hole — that slowed down his charge.

“I particularly liked my birdies on the 14th and 17th (both par-3s)” said Bhullar.

Among the Indians, young Himmat Rai carded a flawless 65 to quietly climb to the joint ninth spot — his first top-10 finish in a co-sanctioned European Tour event. His tally of 14-under 274 was worth €35,100.

Jeev Milkha Singh, after looking good at four-under after nine holes, dropped three shots over the next two holes and fell back.

The scores: 265: Thomas Aiken (RSA) 67, 69, 62, 67; 268: Gaganjeet Bhullar 68, 69, 67, 64; 270: Liang Wen-chong (Chn) 66, 66, 69, 69; 271: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha) 68, 68, 66, 69; 272: Baek-Seuk-hyun (Kor) 68, 68, 70, 66; 273: David Horsey (Eng) 72, 68, 66, 67, Scott Hend (Aus) 67, 68, 68, 70, David Drysdale (Sco) 67, 67, 68, 71; 274: Himmat Rai (Ind) 70, 71, 68, 65, Victor Dubuisson (Fra) 69, 68, 70, 67, Julien Quesne (Fra) 69, 66, 69, 70 and Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) 69, 65, 69, 71.

Other Indians: Jeev Milkha Singh (69, 68, 69, 71) 277; Jyoti Randhawa (70, 70, 68, 70), Rahil Gangjee (69, 66, 72, 71), Anirban Lahiri (68, 69, 70, 71) 278; Rashid Khan (67, 73, 73, 66) 279; Manav Jaini (70, 71, 69, 70) 280; Abhijit Chadha (66, 69, 74, 72) 281; Ashok Kumar (68, 71, 70, 73) 282; Vikrant Chopra (72, 69, 74, 68) 283; Ajeetesh Sandhu (72, 69, 74, 71), S. S. P. Chowrasia (68, 72, 74, 72) and Mukesh Kumar (72, 69, 72, 73) 286.

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