New Delhi: In-form Jyoti Randhawa of India fired three closing birdies for an opening five-under-par 67, grabbing a share of the clubhouse lead with countryman Mukesh Kumar at the weather-disrupted Panasonic Open India on Thursday.
The leading duo holds a three-shot advantage in the US$400,000 Asian Tour event after the opening round was delayed by thick fog for four hours in the morning and later abandoned for the day at 5.26pm local time due to fading light.
Thailand’s Sutijet Kooratanapisan signed for a 70 to sit in third place alongside a host of players, who will be amongst the 60 players set to return to the venerable Delhi Golf Club at 7am on Friday morning to complete their opening rounds.
Defending champion Chiragh Kumar of India returned with a 71 to stay four shots off the pace at the Panasonic Open India, which is celebrating its sixth consecutive edition on the Asian Tour this week.
Randhawa, Asia’s number one in 2002, continued his recent run of fine form for a solid start at the Delhi Golf Club, a venue where he had won four Asian Tour titles previously.
“This is one of my favourite golf courses. I have a lot of good memories. I felt good coming back here again. I had a good finish to the round which was great. The game has been feeling good. I have been playing a lot recently. I think that got me the good form,” said the 44-year-old, who enjoyed a top-five finish in the Philippines last month.
After turning in 35, Randhawa sank two birdies against a bogey before blasting three straight birdies from 16 for a back-nine 32.
“I holed a long putt from 30-feet on 16 and chip-in from greenside on 17 before sinking a two-footer birdie putt on last. I hit the ball really good. I had a two-hour sleep during the fog delay and I went for a massage. It didn’t really affect me much. I felt fresh when I started the round,” added the eight-time Asian Tour winner.
Kumar, a local veteran who has won over 120 professional titles in his career, took advantage of his course knowledge for his fine start.
“I was hitting it close on the back-nine and on the front-nine I managed to sink three long putts from 10 to 15 feet. I also made a good recovery from the bushes on the sixth where I drained a 15-footer for bogey,” said the 51-year-old Indian, who traded seven birdies against two bogeys.
“I believe my judgement on this course, having played here for so many years. My course knowledge worked to my advantage today. I won an event here over a decade back. The course is definitely playing longer than usual this time but you had to adapt accordingly,” Kumar added.
Title-holder Chiragh endured a frustrating day in the office but took pride in his battling performance where he sank three birdies against two bogeys.
“It was a frustrating day. I wasn’t hitting the ball particularly well but having said that, I am happy to return with a 71. I managed to grind it out so it is not too bad a score. The course is playing tough. It’s tough to make putts out there,” said the 32-year-old.
“I want to have a good night rest tonight. We will see how it goes tomorrow. It’s going to be another long day again. Hopefully I can make more putts,” Chiragh added.
Scores after round 1 of the Panasonic Open India 2016 being played at the par 72, 6935 Yards Delhi GC course (am - denotes amateur):
67 - Jyoti RANDHAWA (IND), Mukesh KUMAR (IND).
70 - Sutijet KOORATANAPISAN (THA).
71 - Sanjeev KUMAR (IND), Chiragh KUMAR (IND), Brett MUNSON (USA), Chikkarangappa S. (IND), M DHARMA (IND), Shankar DAS (IND), Vikrant CHOPRA (IND), Manav JAINI (IND), Gaurav Pratap SINGH (IND).
72 - Abhishek JHA (IND), CHAN Yih-shin (TPE), Abhinav LOHAN (IND), Zamal Hossain MOLLAH (BAN), Simon YATES (SCO), Arie IRAWAN (MAS), Mardan MAMAT (SIN), Om Prakash CHOUHAN (IND), Rahul BAJAJ (IND), Sung LEE (KOR).
73 - Nicolas PAEZ (USA), Rory HIE (INA), Pariya JUNHASAVASDIKUL (THA), Unho PARK (AUS), LEE Chieh-po (TPE), Pawan KUMAR (IND), Aman RAJ (IND), Deepinder Singh KULLAR (IND).