Bengaluru: Round one of the Asian Tour’s inaugural TAKE Solutions Masters belonged to Indian youngsters Viraj Madappa and Divyanshu Bajaj. The Kolkata duo sparkled with matching scores of five-under-66 at the KGA course in Bengaluru on Thursday to close the first round of the US$300,000 event in joint second, two behind leader Poom Saksansin of Thailand.
Rookie Viraj Madappa, the first player to tee off from the 10th on Thursday morning, got to three-under in no time as he sank a 15 feet eagle on the par-5 11th and followed that up with a mammoth 35 feet birdie conversion on the next. The 19-year-old’s hot putter earned him another birdie from 12 feet on the 17th as he made the turn at a promising four-under.
Viraj, playing his first international event as a professional, kept up the intensity on his second nine, delivering another birdie from 12 feet on the eighth even as he kept the errors out.
Madappa said, “This is my second Asian Tour event. I played in my first at the Diamond Cup in Japan as an amateur two years ago. I was really excited to start the day today. I woke up fresh and raring to go.
“It is easier to build on a good start and that’s what I did. It gives you a lot of confidence knowing that you can play well. I feel like I could have gone a little bit lower. I can’t wait for the next three days to go.
“I have played here a number of times because I studied in Bengaluru, so for two years I was almost based out of this golf course.”
Interestingly, Viraj recently returned to Bengaluru as he joined a college in the city.
He added, “This is my first year as a professional and every day I feel more comfortable and confident. Every day is a learning experience. I didn’t hit it really close today so I’m going to put in some work on the range.”
Divyanshu Bajaj, like Madappa, also came up with a bogey-free 66 on the opening day. The 27-year-old Bajaj, who is placed 19th in the current PGTI rankings thanks to two top-10s this year, slowly made his way up on Thursday with two birdies on the front-nine and an eagle and a birdie on the back-nine.
Bajaj said, “I struck it well and landed it pretty close on several occasions. I also backed that up with some quality putting.
“I think I was a little fortunate to make eagle on the par-5 11th where the wind was in my favour and the pin was accessible.”
Divyanshu, who left himself a three feet eagle putt on the 11th, admitted to having picked up some pointers of playing at KGA from close friend and Bengaluru local Rahil Gangjee during the practice round.
“My good friend Rahil Gangjee, who recently moved from Kolkata to Bengaluru and now plays at KGA, shared some valuable tips with me with regard to the greens during the practice round. His inputs have helped me a great deal.
“Rahil along SSP are the two people I often talk to for feedback on my game. They have both been very helpful over the years and have always encouraged me.
“I’ve endured two tough seasons on the PGTI in 2015 and 2016 but this year I’ve been working on the mental side of my game and the results have got better. But this is definitely my best round of the season so far. I now need to keep it going and stay consistent through the week,” added Divyanshu.
Bengaluru-based 23-year-old Syed Saqib Ahmed and Chandigarh’s Sujjan Singh, a winner on the Asian Development Tour, fired rounds of four-under-67 to be the other two Indians in the top-6. They shared the fourth spot with Spaniard Carlos Pigem.
Saqib came up with six birdies against two bogeys and the highlight of his round were his two approach shots from over 100 yards on the 10th and 17th both of which stopped a foot from the hole and led to birdies.
“This is my home course and I know it so well that I didn’t even bother picking up a yardage book at the start of the event. Those two approach shots that led to tap-in birdies were special,” said Saqib.
Sujjan Singh, having registered seven birdies and three bogeys on the first 16 holes, had an opportunity to join Viraj and Divyanshu in tied second at five-under. However, he had to settle for pars on the last two holes. He missed out on birdie from five feet on the last hole.
Bengaluru boys Chikkarangappa, Khalin Joshi and Mhow’s Om Prakash Chouhan posted scores of three-under-68 to be tied seventh. They made it seven Indians in the top-10.
Among the established Indian golfers, Gaganjeet Bhullar, SSP Chawrasia and Jyoti Randhawa, were in tied 12th at two-under-69 while Shiv Kapur and Rahil Gangjee were a further shot back in tied 26th.
Jeev Milkha Singh shot an eight-over-79 in the first round to be placed tied 142nd.