Karandeep Kochhar sets the bar on home turf on day one of Jeev Milkha Singh Invitational 2019

Karandeep Kochhar Rd 2Chandigarh: Chandigarh’s Karandeep Kochhar set the bar at his home turf, the Chandigarh Golf Club, on the opening day of the Jeev Milkha Singh Invitational 2019 Presented by TAKE Solutions, a Rs. 1.5 crore event.

The 20-year-old Karandeep, the runner-up at the inaugural edition of the tournament last year, struck a power-packed seven-under-65 on Thursday to enjoy a one-shot lead over fellow Chandigarh pro Ajeetesh Sandhu, Om Prakash Chouhan of Mhow and Delhi-based Himmat Singh Rai.

Tournament host and Indian golfing icon Jeev Milkha Singh made a steady start with an even-par-72 to be tied 37th.

Karandeep Kochhar, one of the pre-tournament favourites, came out all guns blazing in round one as he raced to four-under over his first six holes thanks to some quality iron shots. After making a tough par-save on the 16th, Kochhar stumbled with a bogey on the 17th. But he put that behind him quickly enough when he birdied the 18th.

Karandeep, who became the youngest player to win on the TATA Steel PGTI at the age of 17 years and five months while still an amateur in 2016, seemed to be inspired by a great par-save on the first where he made an up and down from 70 yards. He thereafter produced more magic with his irons on the seventh and eighth to set up short birdie putts.

Kochhar, who ended up with eight birdies at the cost of a lone bogey, said, “I’ve been working on my iron-play and it was the best aspect of my game today. I struggled off the tee and found myself in some difficult spots but managed to recover really well.

“The highlight of my round was the six-iron approach from 185 yards on the 15th where I had a downhill lie. I landed that shot within five feet to pick up a birdie.

“It was fun playing alongside Jeev Sir who we’ve all looked up to and Aadil Bedi another Chandigarh pro.

“The key in round two will be to put the ball in play since I’m quite confident of my iron shots and putting.”

Ajeetesh Sandhu was one-under through the front-nine before he stepped on the gas with five straight birdies from the 13th to the 17th hitting it close through the stretch.

Om Prakash Chouhan had a slow start but found his putting rhythm from the sixth. He thereafter produced six birdies and didn’t concede a shot.

Himmat Singh Rai reaped the benefits of his recent stint in the United Kingdom where he played five events on the Jamega Tour. Himmat struck a 66 in testing conditions in the morning session to be in a three-way tie for second place.

Bengaluru’s Viraj Madappa shot an error-free 67 to take a share of fifth place along with Lucknow’s Sanjeev Kumar and Sri Lankans N Thangaraja and Mithun Perera.

Thangaraja’s round featured a hole-in-one on the eighth.

Indian star Jyoti Randhawa carded a two-under-70 to be tied 17th.

Star attraction and local favourite Jeev Milkha Singh made three birdies and three bogeys in a round of even-par-72 that placed him tied 37th.

Jeev said, “I made some course management errors and bad decisions today and also missed a few putts. But I’m happy with the way I managed to close it out at even-par.”

Rory Hie of Indonesia, the leading foreign name in the field, too shot a 72 to be tied 37th.

Defending champ Chikkarangappa’s 73 placed the Bengaluru lad in tied 55th.

Panchkula-based Martendeya Kanishka Sinha was the second player to make a hole-in-one on Thursday. Sinha struck an ace on the 14th during his round of 74. He was placed tied 72nd.