Pune Open: Pratap Atwal takes first round lead with sizzling 65, Chiragh, Ashbeer tied 2nd

Chiragh Kumar Dubai OpenPune: Delhi’s Pratap Atwal took the first round lead at the inaugural Pune Open with a sizzling error-free seven-under-65 at the Oxford Golf Resort. Chiragh Kumar of Delhi and Kapurthala’s Ashbeer Saini were in joint second with scores of five-under-67.

The 24-year-old Pratap Atwal, playing his second season as a professional, had a fruitful front-nine thanks to three birdies. He further accelerated on the back-nine adding four more birdies to his card. Pratap, who has two top-20s in his five starts this season, made birdies on all the four par-5s and also had two long birdie conversions on the fifth and 15th. Atwal established his two stroke lead with a tap-in birdie on the par-3 17th.

“I placed my shots really well today even though I didn’t hole too many putts. I struck my long-irons well. I played decent last week in Bangladesh so that gave me a lot of confidence coming here. I capitalized on all the four par-5s with birdies,” said Atwal.

He added, “The game plan was to hit fairways, not get too aggressive and play to my strength which is hitting long. I took it one step at a time and it all fell in place for me. After the turn, I was aware that I was well-placed, so I kept it simple by looking for the safe side of the fairways.

“A good first round always sets you up well for the week, so I’m quite pleased with the start.”

Chiragh Kumar, a winner on the Asian Tour last year, too had a bogey-free opening round. Chiragh left himself two short conversions for birdie and also sank a 25-feet birdie putt on the fifth.

Chiragh said, “I was pretty solid off the tee and hit my irons well. Importantly, I didn’t make any mistakes today. I was a little disappointed that I made birdie on just one of the four par-5s since the par-5s provide good scoring opportunities here.

“My birdie on the 17th, where I landed my tee shot three feet from the pin, really got me going today. Another score of five-under would be great in round two but I’ll just focus on sticking to my game plan.

“I found my rhythm at the back end of 2015 with a win and a runner-up finish on the Asian Tour. So far 2016 has been up and down with just a couple of decent finishes. I feel I’m playing well at the moment but the results haven’t been there for me. It’s now a matter of trusting my game plan and putting together four good rounds,” added Chiragh.

Ashbeer Saini, on the road to recovery from a wrist injury, produced his best round of the season thanks to some brilliant putting to share the second spot with Chiragh. Saini drained three putts from a range of 15 to 30 feet including a 20-footer for eagle on the closing ninth.

Gaganjeet Bhullar, playing at the Oxford Golf Resort after five years, had a four-under-68 to show for his opening day effort. He occupied fourth place.

Aditya Bhandarkar was the highest-placed among the Pune-based professionals in the field. Bhandarkar fired a 69 to share fifth place with Sri Lankan Anura Rohana, R Murthy of Bengaluru, Greater Noida’s Mandeo Singh Pathania, Delhi’s Veer Ahlawat and the Chandigarh duo of Gurbaaz Mann and Ranjit Singh.

Pune golfer Pravin Pathare was a further shot back in tied 12th along with eight others.