Udayan Mane enjoys early advantage at Western India Oxford Masters

Udayan Mane Action PicturePune: Rookie golfer Udayan Mane of Bengaluru, fresh from his maiden title in Jaipur three weeks back, continued his rich vein of form in the opening round of the inaugural Western India Oxford Masters with a superb seven-under-65 to take a two-shot lead. Delhi’s Vinod Kumar was second at five-under-67 on day one of the Rs. 30 lakh event at the Oxford Golf Resort.

Udayan Mane, a 10th tee starter on Tuesday, nailed a couple of crucial long-range birdie putts on the 14th and 17th, both par-3s, to get his round going. The 24-year-old Mane set up two more birdies on the first and fourth courtesy some accurate drives and approach shots.

Udayan recovered well from the rough before sinking a 20-footer for birdie on the fifth to move to five-under for the day. The burly golfer, measuring 6 feet 4 inches in height, closed his round with a flourish as he claimed an eagle on the par-5 ninth from a distance of 10 feet to end up with a bogey-free 65.

Mane said, “I was spot-on with my course management today. My club-selection was perfect and I picked the right lines on the greens. I recovered well after a couple of errant tee shots on two occasions. Besides those two holes I really didn’t land myself in any tough situation.

“On the opening 10th hole, I hit my tee shot left but came back well to make par. That settled me down and let me focus. I also had a lucky break on the seventh where my tee shot rebounded off a tree and landed back on the fairway. That was a big moment in the round as I consider the seventh the toughest driving hole.

“It was heartening to make two 20-feet birdie putts today. I’m not looking at any numbers this week but instead just want to play to my potential. The opening round has given me a solid foundation to build on over the next three days,” added Mane.

Vinod Kumar mixed seven birdies with two bogeys for a brilliant 67 to be two off the lead. Vinod was in tremendous chipping form as he chipped-in for birdie on the fifth and landed it within inches on the 16th. He also set up tap-in birdies thanks to his strong iron-play on the ninth and 12th. The multiple winner on the PGTI almost holed out his approach from 170 yards on the 12th.

“I was stroking my putts well. However, some of them didn’t roll in. My driving and iron shots were top-class and I’m extremely satisfied with the first round effort. I’ve had a low opening round after a long time. This sets me up for the week,” said an excited Vinod.

Gurgaon-based Shubhankar Sharma shot a flawless four-under-68 to lie third.

There was a six-way tie for fourth place between Sri Lankans Anura Rohana and K Prabagaran, Noida golfers Vikrant Chopra and Gaurav Pratap Singh, Delhi’s Honey Baisoya and Australian Kunal Bhasin, at three-under-69.

Pune-based professionals Aditya Bhandarkar (70) and Moinuddin Malak (71) shot under-par scores to be tied 10th and tied 21st respectively.

Delhi’s Chiragh Kumar, who secured his Asian Tour card with a creditable tied second at the Venetian Macau Open last week, posted a 75 to be tied 56th.

Chiragh said, “It was a big moment for me last week as securing the Asian Tour card was a huge relief and a confidence-booster at the same time. It was a tough tournament with a strong field and I’m delighted to have put up a good performance there.

“It was great to play the final round in Macau with my former India team-mate Anirban Lahiri who has been in the form of his life. We kept encouraging each other during the round,” added Chiragh.

“I reached Pune late last evening so didn’t have the opportunity to play a practice round. My putting let me down today as I missed a few short putts. Nonetheless, I hope I can come back in the second round as I’ve been playing well recently,” said Chiragh.