Gangjee best among Indians, Wang, Olesen and Pigem in joint lead at Mauritius Open

Rahil GangjeeDomaine de Bel Ombre, Mauritius: India’s Rahil Gangjee birdied three of the last five holes to come in with four-under 67 and at tied sixth came out the best among Indians after Round 1 of the inaugural AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open on Thursday.

Gangjee, who was one-under for the first 13 holes, birdied the fifth, seventh and eighth and ended with a 67.

“We were battling out there. It wasn’t easy, it was very, very windy and it started raining and it stopped raining and then it started raining again. It was more tiring than a normal day. I was feeling it towards the end but somehow it came together where I made a few putts,” he said.

Meanwhile, Korean teenager Jeunghun Wang, who has not missed the cut in his last 21 starts on the Asian Tour, shared the first round lead with Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen and Spaniard Carlos Pigem after jointly establishing a new course record of six-under-par 65.

The talented Olesen, who has been out for three months following a hand surgery, mixed eight birdies with two bogeys at the magnificent Heritage Golf Club in the morning before his effort was matched later in the day by Wang, who was bogey-free and Pigem.

The trio lead by a shot from South Africa’s Oliver Bekker and Terry Pilkadaris of Australia in the €1 million (approximately US$1.1 million) tournament, which is the first ever to be tri-sanctioned by the Asian, European and Sunshine Tours.

India’s Rahil Gangjee, who is half Mauritian, and Thailand’s Panuphol Pittayarat were amongst those bunched on 67.

The 19-year-old Wang, only one of two players who produced bogey-free cards, overcame windy and rainy conditions to surge up the leaderboard as he chases a maiden Tour victory.

“I’m so happy with my score. The wind was so strong and the rain was very hard. I’m happy that I played like this and my putter was pretty nice today,” said Wang, whose made-cut streak began since the end of 2013.

“I’m enjoying my week in Mauritius. The weather wasn’t nice but I want to keep my golf going like this. I didn’t think I could play a score like this. I got lucky. I got into trouble a few times but made a few good putts for par.”

Olesen, a two-time European Tour winner, got out of the blocks quickly with four birdies in his first five holes – the first from 40 feet – and picked up further gains at the 16th and 18th holes – either side of a dropped shot on the 17th hole – for an outward 31. Another bogey followed on the first, but Olesen birdied the fifth and completed his scoring with a 10-footer on the seventh hole.

“We had perfect conditions on the front nine and I played well on the front nine, then it started getting tricky on the back nine,” said the 25-year-old. “I’ve been waiting a long time for this – three months to play a competition round, so I was excited to get out there this morning. We had great conditions and I hit a lot of great putts, so it was fun.”

Pigem, an Asian Tour regular, was delighted with his opening round’s effort. “This is a lovely place. When I arrived I said ‘this is paradise, I have to play well’ so I’m glad I did,” said the 24-year-old.

“It’s my target to be on the European Tour in the future and I know if I work hard I will be, but right now I’m enjoying it in Asia and learning a lot.”

Sponsors for the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open include the AfrAsia Bank, Rogers, Heritage Resorts, Heritage Golf Club, Domaine de Bel Ombre, Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority, Air Mauritius, Anahita, Villas Valriche, and Jaguar.

Leading first round scores

65 - Thorbjorn OLESEN (DEN) , Jeunghun WANG (KOR) , Carlos PIGEM (ESP)
66 - Oliver BEKKER (RSA) , Terry PILKADARIS (AUS)
67 - Madalitso MUTHIYA (ZAM) , Daniel WOLTMAN (USA) , Dean BURMESTER (RSA) , John PARRY (ENG) , Rahil GANGJEE (IND) , Justin WALTERS (RSA) , Panuphol PITTAYARAT (THA) , Nathan HOLMAN (AUS)
69 - Ryan CAIRNS (ZIM) , Sam BRAZEL (AUS) , Thanyakon KHRONGPHA (THA) , Paul PETERSON (USA) , Jazz JANEWATTANANOND (THA) , Mardan MAMAT (SIN) , Colin NEL (RSA) , Scott BARR (AUS) , Thomas AIKEN (RSA)