Vastavam web: Indian golfer Rahil Gangjee on Sunday clinched the Panasonic Open title in style by hitting a birdie in the last hole to end a 14-year-long title drought.The 39-year-old Gangjee was tied with Korea’s Hyungsung Kim on 13-under going into the 18th and the final hole. The Indian held his nerves to hit a birdie on the final hole to end with a score of 14-under and bag the title in Osaka, Japan.The win brought Gangjee a lot of benefits, including a winner’s cheque of over USD 283,000 plus a bonus of USD 50,000 for finishing second on the Panasonic Swing behind Shiv Kapur (who got USD 70,000). Gangjee also got two-year exemptions into Asian and Japan Tours.
In the intervening period from 2004 to the present, Gangjee had finished second three times, third another three times and had a total of 22 Top-10s.Gangjee became the third Indian after Jyoti Randhawa (Suntory Open 2003), Jeev Milkha Singh (2 in 2006 and 2 in 2008) to win a Japan Tour title. Last year, Ajeetesh Sandhu won a 36-hole event on Japan Challenge Tour.Kolkata-born Gangjee wanted to be a jockey before his father convinced him to take up golf because he was afraid of his son getting injured. Little over a year ago Gangjee moved to Bengaluru and the move seemed to pay off.
An emotional Gangjee said, “It has been 14 years. I’ve been in such situations a few times now but obviously have not been able to convert my chances until today. It has been a very hard 14 years and the thing that surprises even myself is my will to keep going.””My third shot out of the bunker was not really a tough shot. But under the pressure it could have been a very tough one. But somehow I was calm. My bunker play is one of the strongest aspects of my game. A lot of people don’t get to see it, but if you ask my caddie, he will tell you that’s the best,” he added.
It was a massive relief for Gangjee, who did not have playing rights anywhere, including in India, when he came from US after losing his Nationwide (now Web.com) card in 2012. He earned the 61st and final card for 2018 season.Among other Indians who played in the final round, Ajeetesh Sandhu (69), the last Indian to win in Japan, was Tied-10, while SSP Chawrasia (73), a one-time room partner of Gangjee, was Tied-40 and Arjun Atwal (75), a former neighbour of Gangjee in Kolkata, was Tied-44.
On the back nine, it was Gangjee who made the move first and Kim followed suit. Gangjee had a superb run of three birdies from 12th to 14th, which carried him back to 13-under, while Kim birdied 13 and 14 to get to 13-under. Hwang birdied 12th to get to 12-under.Kim and Gangjee stayed steady with pars for next three holes and were still at 13-under. Hwang bogeyed the 16th but birdied 17th and 18th to set the clubhouse target of 13-under.