Indian Open: Chiragh Kumar steals the show

New Delhi: Unheralded Chiragh Kumar of India fired a sparkling eight-under-par 64 to take a surprising one shot lead in the first round of the Hero Indian Open on Thursday.

Chiragh upstaged the stellar Asian Tour stars gathered at the Delhi Golf Club with a flawless round highlighted by eight birdies in the US$1.25 million event.

Veteran Zaw Moe of Myanmar was a further stroke back with Scotland’s Ross Bain and Lin Wen-hong of Chinese Taipei, who is eyeing to make amends from his disqualification in the final round of the Yeangder TPC last week.

Chiragh, 27, a 2006 Asian Games team silver medallist, could have extended his lead by two but missed a 15 foot eagle putt on the last.

“I wanted to keep it simple. I didn’t have a score in mind but I read my putts well. The Asian Tour has staged quite a number of events in India this year and I’ve definitely improved playing with Asia’s best,” said Chiragh, a two-time winner on the local circuit.

“I don’t have any expectations in this tournament but I hope I can continue my form and hopefully I’ll still be on top the leader board on Sunday,” said Kumar, whose best finish was in tied 10th at the 2006 Indian Open when he was still an amateur.

Moe, 44, has enjoyed two top-10 finishes since changing to a belly putter in the Macau Open in September and needed only 25 putts in a round of six birdies and one eagle on the par five 14th hole where his seven wood approach landed six feet from the hole.

“One of the reasons to my good form is my belly putter which has helped me a lot. My putting has been very consistent since I changed it and my confidence is really high at the moment,” said Moe, whose last victory on the Asian Tour was in 1997.

Lin would have finished in tied third if he did not sign for the wrong score last week but he bounced back with a flawless round today highlighted by five straight birdies starting from the 13th hole.

“I was really sad after last week but it looks like I’ve recovered,” said Lin, who shot five consecutive birdies from the 13th hole.

“To be honest, I didn’t expect to play well here. I came here without thinking of winning at all. I’m here just to play hole by hole and hopefully get a good result,” added the younger brother of Asian Tour winners Wen-tang and Wen-ko.

The Dubai-based Bain, who finished second in the Indian Open in 2001, carded his best score at the Delhi Golf Club highlighted by birdies in his opening three holes. He added four more birdies, one eagle and two bogeys to share the first round lead.

“I got off to a fast start and started playing better as the round went on. I played very well on the par fives which you have to do on this course. I’ve played here a lot over the years and it is nice to feel that I got the better of Delhi Golf Club,” said Bain, who is searching for a maiden Asian Tour victory.

Scores after round 1 of the Hero Indian Open 2011 being played at the par 72, 6983 Yards Delhi GC course (a- denotes amateur):
64 - Chiragh KUMAR (IND).
65 - LIN Wen-hong (TPE), Ross BAIN (SCO), Zaw MOE (MYN).
67 - Scott BARR (AUS).
68 - David GLEESON (AUS), Angelo QUE (PHI), Adilson DA SILVA (BRA).
69 - Om Prakash CHOUHAN (IND), Tjaart VAN DER WALT (RSA), Himmat RAI (IND), Chapchai NIRAT (THA), Rikard KARLBERG (SWE), Gurki SHERGILL (IND), S.S.P. CHOWRASIA (IND), Atthaphon PRATHUMMANEE (THA), Young NAM (KOR), Jbe KRUGER (RSA), BAEK Seuk-hyun (KOR), Simon GRIFFITHS (ENG), Namchok TANTIPOKHAKUL (THA).