Shillong: Bengaluru lad Udayan Mane, looking for an upswing in fortunes in the current PGTI season after an explosive rookie season last year, got off to an ideal start at the Chief Minister’s Meghalaya Open Golf 2016 with an exquisite opening round of five-under-65.
Chandigarh’s Ranjit Singh and Gurgaon’s Deepinder Singh Kullar were one off the pace in second place at the Rs. 40 lakh event.
Udayan Mane, playing his first competitive event at the picturesque Shillong Golf Course, began the week with a birdie on the par-4 first after landing his tee shot a yard short of the green. The 2015 PGTI Emerging Player of the Year then had a quiet spell with pars till the ninth.
After a birdie and bogey on the 10th and 12th, Udayan came up with one of his best shots of the day as he drove the green on the par-4 13th to set up another birdie. Mane finally ended the day with a flourish as he picked up birdies on the last three holes.
The 25-year-old chipped his way to the top landing it within a foot on the 16th and 17th, before chipping-in on the 18th.
Mane said, “It’s my first ever event here in Shillong and I really enjoyed the conditions out there today. I drove well and put the ball in good positions and chipped well to set up a number of tap-in birdies. I played to my strength and was aggressive from the very start. I used my driver everywhere even while most others were hitting irons.
“I had a fantastic rookie season in 2015 when I finished fifth in the Rolex Ranking thanks to two wins. I’ve so far had five top-10s this year but have not been able to replicate last year’s form. After the tied third finish last month in Chennai, I switched gears mentally. Now, I’m not demanding too much of myself but letting things happen instead. The changed approach has helped me.”
Deepinder Singh Kullar closed the day with consecutive birdies on the ninth and 10th to begin the week with a four-under-66. Kullar excelled from the 70 to 100 yard range as he used his wedges to great effect to set up birdies.
“I feel my game is coming together at the moment and the consistency is there. A couple of top-10s in the back half of the season have lifted me to 22nd place in the Rolex Ranking. Now my next goal is to win. The short putts can be tricky here in Shillong so one cannot afford to lose his cool on the greens,” said Kullar.
Like Kullar, Ranjit Singh too produced seven birdies and three bogeys during his opening round to close the day in joint second. Ranjit’s round featured two 15-feet conversions, a chip-in and a narrow miss for eagle on the 15th where his approach from 160 yards stopped one foot from the flag.
Kolkata’s Divyanshu Bajaj fired a 67 to be fourth while Delhi’s Vinod Kumar, Kunal Bhasin of Australia and Om Prakash Chouhan of Mhow were a further two shots back in tied fifth.
Naeem Akhtar and Jeevan Sharma were the highest-placed among the professionals from Shillong. Akhtar and Sharma were joint 54th with scores of four-over-74.
Leading Scores after Round 1 (18 holes)
65: Udayan Mane
66: Ranjit Singh, Deepinder Singh Kullar
67: Divyanshu Bajaj
69: Vinod Kumar, Kunal Bhasin, Om Prakash Chouhan