New Delhi, Feb 28 IBNS | 6 months ago

Sri Lanka's Mithun Perera tied overnight leader Rashid Khan of India for the lead at the season-opening SAIL-SBI Open presented by Incredible India Ministry of Tourism before a thunderstorm forced the suspension of the third round on Friday.


The straight-shooting Perera, bidding to become the first Sri Lankan to win on the Asian Tour, battled to three under par through eight holes and 13-under for the tournament when officials abandoned play at the Delhi Golf Club due to inclement weather.

Khan, who led by four overnight, was one over through seven holes while Bangladeshi star Siddikur Rahman moved to within one stroke of the co-leaders with birdies on the first and seventh holes in the US$300,000 Asian Tour event.

Two-time champion Anirban Lahiri of India kept alive his hopes of becoming the first man to win the same tournament in three successive years, although he is poised to bogey the ninth hole to fall two off the pace.

Perera, 27, is geared up for a marathon Saturday, with the third round resuming at 7.30am and the players heading out for the final round in the same groupings from 9am.

With Khan also chasing for a maiden Asian Tour title and Lahiri and Siddikur lurking, Perera knows there will be no margin for error at the ultra-demanding Delhi course.

"I've just got to play good to win it. Everyone is playing well. I had a good start and on every hole, I hit driver as my tee shots were so good. Made a few birdies with some
good iron shots but missed a few too. It will be important to stay on the fairways. If I can do that, I can do something tomorrow," said Perera.

Khan, 23, was happy to hear the siren suspending play at 1.22pm before officials eventually called off the round at 3pm. The slender Indian has slept with the overnight lead since his first round heroics of 61 and hopes the shortened day would prove to be a blessing in disguise.

Siddikur, who qualified to represent Team Asia in the inaugural EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM against Europe in Malaysia next month, looms as a big threat to Khan and Perera.

The Bangladeshi was victorious at the fabled Delhi course when he won the Hero Indian Open in November.

Lahiri, who finished a career high third on the Order of Merit last season, is 12-under through eight holes but is poised to drop a bogey on nine after missing a short par putt before the siren blew.

He birdied the first, third, fifth and eighth holes.

Lahiri knows he must chase for the win as he does not expect Khan or Perera to buckle under the pressure of trying to claim a first Asian Tour victory.

"I don't think it'll be a big deal for Rashid and Mithun. Rashid has won prolifically in India and this is his home course. I don't think he'll be nervous. As for Mithun, everything he
touches now seems to turn to gold. He's won the last three events in India. He's on a juggernaut now. The challenge will be on Siddikur and I to pressure them. If we can do that, I'll be interesting," said Lahiri.

(Posted on 28-02-2014)