Harendra Gupta in joint lead with four others on day one of ICC RCGC Open Golf Championship

Harendra Gupta GolfKolkata: Bengaluru’s Mari Muthu R, Chandigarh’s Harendra Gupta, Panchkula-based Angad Cheema, Gurugram’s Ankur Chadha and Vikrant Chopra of Noida shot scores of four-under 68 to enjoy the first round lead at the Rs. 40 lakh ICC RCGC Open Golf Championship 2021 Powered by Urbana.

On a packed leaderboard, the leading quintet was one shot ahead of six players bunched in tied sixth at three-under 69 which included local lad Akram Ali Mollah of Kolkata, Gurugram’s Tapy Ghai, Sri Lankan Anura Rohana, last week’s winner Yuvraj Singh Sandhu of Chandigarh, Delhi’s Kshitij Naveed Kaul and Jamshedpur’s Kurush Heerjee.

It was a high scoring day that witnessed sub-par rounds by only 31 players in a field of 126.

Mari Muthu and Harendra Gupta, both room-mates this week, found themselves at the top of the pack with the former firing an eagle, four birdies and two bogeys and the latter returning a bogey-free round with four birdies to his credit.

Mari Muthu, who made a 20-feet eagle conversion on the fourth, said, “I got off to a great start this season with a career-best third place finish at Eagleton in February 2020. However, I was disappointed to not have capitalized on that start as my putting didn’t click thereafter. But I feel my putting is now improving with each event, so I’m hopeful of finishing the year well.”

Harendra Gupta, multiple winner on the PGTI, has had a promising run since the resumption of the tour in September having posted two top-10s and two other top-20s. He is currently 22nd on the Order of Merit.

Gupta said, “I sank my first birdie of the day on the 18th from 14 feet and that seemed to spur me on as I then collected three more birdies on the front-nine. I’m going through a swing change and my iron hitting has been good after a long gap thanks to the changes I’ve made in my game.”

Angad Cheema, currently 23rd on the PGTI Order of Merit, came up with five birdies and a bogey on Thursday. Cheema, a winner on the PGTI, was five-under through 17 holes when he was looking good for the sole lead. However, he bogeyed the closing ninth, missing a five-footer, for his only blemish of the day that saw him drop down into the joint lead at four-under.

Ankur Chadha got off to a whirlwind start on the back-nine with four birdies on his first five holes before dropping bogeys on the 15th and 18th. He made a recovery, picking up two birdies on the front-nine.

After being even-par on the back-nine, Vikrant Chopra too made his way up the leaderboard by firing four birdies on the front-nine.

Defending champion Mithun Perera of Sri Lanka carded a one-over 73 to be tied 42nd.