Gaurav Pratap endures poor start, to set pace with opening round 65

Gaurav Pratap Singh Round 1 leaderDigboi: Noida’s Gaurav Pratap Singh fought back after a poor start to set the pace in round one of the IndianOil Servo Masters Golf 2015 being played at the Digboi Golf Links in Digboi, Assam. Gaurav signed a card of seven-under-65 to lead by one over Mukesh Kumar of Mhow and Kolkata’s Shankar Das, both of whom shot scores of six-under-66.

The tournament was inaugurated on Wednesday morning by B K Ravi, Adviser (Security), IOCL and Amitava Misra, GM (IC), IOCL (AOD). Ravi and Misra’s ceremonial tee-off was followed by the release of balloons. Ravi and Misra also planted trees on the course to mark the inauguration of the event.

Gaurav Pratap’s 65 happened to be one of his best rounds in the last two years. He had a dreadful bogey-bogey start after a couple of errant tee shots on the first two holes. The 31-year-old Singh, a former winner on the PGTI, then made a gallant comeback with nine birdies thereafter.

Gaurav first recovered a shot after driving the green on the third and followed that up with three consecutive birdies on seven, eight, nine, thanks to a 20-feet conversion and two outstanding chips. Singh made further inroads on the back-nine as a result of three more birdie conversions from a range of seven to 15 feet and a superb bunker shot on the 14th that led to a tap-in birdie.

Gaurav said, “It’s probably the best round I’ve shot in two years. I made all the par-5s count today scoring birdies on each one. My wedge shots were also pretty good. I feel I played really well to not only recover but also put up a low number after that terrible start.

“I’ve suffered a spate of injuries over the last two years that has hampered my game. So it’s great to finally see a 65 against my name. Hopefully, I can capitalize on this solid start.

“I’ve worked a lot on my game over the past few months and I’m now looking to get my game back on track. I’ve gone through a rough patch in my career but I’ve treated it like a learning curve and not lost focus,” added Singh.

Mukesh Kumar and Shankar Das, two of the pre-tournament favourites, lived up to their reputations with scores of 66 to occupy joint second place.

Mukesh, a six-time winner in Digboi, missed a three-footer on the opening 10th hole to begin the tournament with a bogey. Kumar then rallied with three birdies and an eagle over the next four holes. He drove the green and then converted a 20-footer for eagle on the 14th after setting up tap-ins on the 12th and 13th.

Mukesh missed his second three-footer of the day to bogey the 15th but more than made up for the error with three more birdies thereafter. He found water on the closing ninth, however, salvaged a par on that hole, courtesy some top-class iron-play.

“I chipped it really well and landed it given on quite a few occasions. The recovery from the water on the ninth was special. I also missed a second eagle on the third where my chip lipped out,” said Mukesh.

He added, “This sets me up for the week. I’m charged up about winning here for a record seventh time. I’ll give it my all this week.”

Shankar Das, a double-winner at Digboi, was off to a brilliant start with five birdies on the first-nine where he landed it within four feet on a few occasions and also drove the green on the third.

Das hit a bad drive on the 11th to drop his only shot of the day. But two good chip-putts from there on gave him two more birdies.

“I had a terrific front-nine today and looked set for a good score but the 11th broke my momentum. I also didn’t make too many putts on the back-nine,” Shankar said.

Kolkata’s Nur Hossain Sardar carded a bogey-free 67 to share the fourth spot with Noida’s Vikrant Chopra and M Dharma of Bengaluru.

Defending champion Shamim Khan of Delhi fired a one-under-71 to be tied 24th.

Deven Bhumij of Digboi was the best-placed local professional in tied 45th after he brought in a card of one-over-73.

Among the other local golfers, professional Biren Karmakar was in tied 78th at seven-over-79 along with amateurs Zakir Hussain and Deep Raj Chetia. Professionals Rashidul Ahmed (nine-over-81) and Binode Gogoi (11-over-83) were placed tied 84th and 89th respectively.