Chikka, Chiragh call shots in Rd 1 of Kolkata Classic, Chawrasia makes a steady start

SSP Chawrasia Hong Kong OpenKolkata: Established names and former PGTI Order of Merit champions Chikkarangappa and Chiragh Kumar called the shots in round one of the Kolkata Classic 2017 with matching scores of four-under-68 at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC).

While Bengaluru-based Chikka regained his putting form on Tuesday, Delhi’s Chiragh Kumar continued to impress following a creditable top-25 at the recently concluded Indian Open.

The Mhow-based duo of Mukesh Kumar and Om Prakash Chouhan, Chandigarh’s Feroz Singh Garewal and Delhi’s Ikramuddin Shah were bunched together in tied third at three-under-69.

The tournament’s star attraction, SSP Chawrasia of Kolkata, returning to his home course after his second consecutive Indian Open win, made a steady start with a one-under-71 to lie tied 18th.

Chikkarangappa, the 2015 PGTI Order of Merit champion, reaped the rewards of going back to the putter that was part of his golfing arsenal for 11 years and contributed to his tremendous success at the junior, amateur and professional levels. The brief spell in between when the two-time Asian Development Tour (ADT) winner tried out several different putters hadn’t been very fruitful.

Chikka started the week in style with three birdies on the first four holes but then had a torrid time from the fifth to the eighth, dropping four consecutive bogeys as a result of some erratic hitting.

After being level-par through 14 holes, the 23-year-old produced a final flourish which began with a 75-feet eagle conversion on the 15th. He signed off with two more long birdie conversions on the 17th and 18th.

“I think I’ve putted so well after almost a year. I missed some short ones on the front-nine but it was a different story on the back-nine where I kept draining it from long range,” said Chikka, who mixed an eagle and seven birdies with five bogeys.

He added, “I was trying out new things and kept changing my putter over the last one year. But that didn’t help. So, two weeks back, during the Indian Open, I went back to the putter that won me most of my titles since the junior level.

“Now, I feel much more confident on the greens. As the putter is perfectly in sync with my routine, I don’t think too much and just make my stroke. This thing was missing in my game over the last one year.

“I’m now looking to post a top finish here at the RCGC, the venue where I won the PGTI year-ending championship in 2015. That would also help me get my Asian Tour season back on track since I missed cut in four consecutive events on the tour before the Indian Open.”

Chiragh Kumar, fresh from an impressive tied 22nd finish at the Indian Open, continued the good work with a solid start to the Kolkata Classic week. Chiragh, one-over through the front-nine, kick-started his round with a 45-feet birdie conversion on the 10th. From there on, he went on to add an eagle and three birdies at the cost of just one bogey.

Chiragh, the 2012 PGTI Order of Merit champion, said, “My second shot from over 200 yards that landed within five feet and resulted in an eagle on the 15th was the highlight of the day.

“I’ve enjoyed a good start to the Asian Tour season with a top-5 in Bangladesh and another decent result at the Indian Open. I’m playing well and have been consistent of late. Hitting and putting, it all came together today,” added Chiragh, a tournament winner on the Asian Tour.

SSP Chawrasia sank three birdies against two bogeys on day one to occupy tied 18th place at one-under-71.

Chawrasia said, “An under-par round here at RCGC is always a good start. There’s a lot of golf yet to be played this week and being three off the lead in round one is not too bad.

“I feel the one week break from golf after the Indian Open has done me a lot of good. It was necessary for me to recharge my battery, so that I could get rid of the physical and mental fatigue after such a demanding week at the DLF Golf & Country Club. I feel, I’m now back in the competitive zone.”

Kolkata-based rookie Viraj Madappa, playing his first professional event in his home town, shot a 79 to be placed tied 101st.