Yannik Paul will have to fend off two men with a combined ten DP World Tour wins after seeing his lead cut to just one stroke after the third round of the Hero Indian Open.
The German entered moving day with a five-shot advantage but he left the door ajar with a one under 71 on day three, allowing countryman Marcel Siem to apply the pressure with a five under par 67 to move just one stroke back of Paul’s 11 under par lead.
Paul, who won his maiden DP World Tour title at last year’s Mallorca Golf Open, was two over through his first three holes on day three but bounced back with three birdies on the spin between the sixth and the eighth to make the turn at one under. The 28-year-old then responded to his only dropped shot of the back nine with a birdie on the 17th to ensure he remained the man to catch with 18 holes to play.
Germany’s Siem, who won the most recent of his four DP World Tour titles at the 2014 BMW Masters, manoeuvred into position to contend for what would be a memorable return to the winner’s circle with just a single dropped shot during his third round. The 42-year-old finished with back-to-back birdies, the second of which was met with huge fist-pump in front of the onlooking crowds at DLF Golf and Country Club.
Six-time DP World Tour winner Joost Luiten, of the Netherlands, added his name to the Sunday showdown after posting a third round 68 to move into third on eight under par and complete the final group.
Three shots back in a tie for fourth is leading Indian Veer Ahlawat, Spain’s Jorge Campillo and last week’s Thailand Classic winner Thorbjørn Olesen, whose six under par 66 was the low round of the day.
Yannik Paul: “With a five shot lead, I knew there was still 36 holes to go. I obviously didn’t get off to the best start but I just tried to focus on myself. There’s so much golf yet. I just tried to stay patient. I know on this course you’re going to get some bad breaks here and there. Six, seven, eight I had a couple of nice birdies and then played pretty solid on the back nine. Hit a couple of great putts but they just seemed to slip by. Had some lip-outs from around eight feet, sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t, it’s not in my control.
“Short game is my strength, I would say. I gave myself a lot of chances and sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t. I just tried to stay positive. I’m in a great position and I’m looking forward to playing with Marcel tomorrow.
“Getting the win would be amazing. Such an iconic event here but I think that’s the hard part. You don’t want to think ahead, you want to stay in the present because 18 holes is a lot of golf left. I’ll just try to get some rest tonight and look forward to tomorrow.”
Marcel Siem: “It was a nice start. It’s not easy to hole putts, so holing a nice one on the first helps, it takes the pressure off a bit. I slept super bad last night, had all sorts of thoughts going through my head but it was good.
“I was aiming four yards right of the flag and it started on the flag. I was below the ball, luckily I’m a cutty player, but I thought that thing was going left and missing the green. It was holding on and then kicked right, so a bit of luck, nice putt, happy days.
“I get the shivers already, just thinking about [winning]. Yannik is a very good player, very steady, he’s a tough guy to beat. I’m not thinking about it. Last three holes down the stretch, that’s where it matters. I’m just trying to do what I do, but it would mean a lot to me, trust me. It would be a life-changer, but let’s talk about that tomorrow.”
Joost Luiten: “I played well. Four under is a good score but I definitely made a couple of mistakes which I thought were unnecessary but that’s this golf course, I get. I’m in the right position, a nice position, for tomorrow.
“You always look at the leaderboard a little bit, it’s tough to not look at it, especially when you’re playing well. I’m in the right position, where I want to be, so hopefully we can put some pressure on him tomorrow and chase him a little bit.
“It’s been a tough time for me so to win tomorrow would be special. It’s always special to win, but I’m not thinking about that today. I need to play a lot of golf tomorrow, I need to play good golf, then we’ll see. But winning on this Tour is always special.
“A win is a win. It’s always tough winning out here. I’m not thinking about that yet, I just want to play some golf tomorrow. Winning is always special, who knows how it feels, we’ll see tomorrow.”
Thorbjørn Olesen: “No bogeys is really nice around here. I felt like I played pretty nicely the first two days. Could have silly mistakes but I didn’t make any mistakes today, which was really nice to see.
“This is a very demanding golf course from the tee and also some big greens with big slopes. You’ve got to be on your game but I felt like I had some confidence coming into this week. I feel like I’ve not really done anything wrong over the first three days, been good off the tee and given myself a lot of chances, which is really nice around this place.
“A few tee boxes were moved back today and it played pretty long. Luckily the weather is nice and there was basically no wind today, which helps. It’s gettable. If you hit good tee shots, you can definitely score but this course can bite you pretty quickly. You just need to concentrate the whole way round.
“Anything can happen on this course. I played with Yannik the first two days and he was playing really, really well so he’ll definitely be a tough man to beat. You never know on this golf course, you can get on a run but you can also go the other way.”
Veer Ahlawat: “I had a really solid start, I was four under after eight holes. I got to five under but then I dropped a shot on hole 14 but overall it was a good, solid striking performance.
“I just feel I’m more mature now. I’ve played this course a lot more and I’m striking the ball better than last time.
“I’m just going to try and take it shot by shot and try not to worry what the outcome is going to be.”