New Delhi: Defending champion Anirban Lahiri overcame all the challenges that the Delhi Golf Club presented by getting off to a great start on the opening day in rather tough conditions in the Panasonic Open India 2012. Bringing home the only card under 70 with a three-under 69, Lahiri was one clear of a group of seven players tied for second at 70 at the Delhi Golf Club on Thursday.
It was a fine day for the local contingent, as four other Indians, Shankar Das, Ashok Kumar, Sanjay Kumar and Digvijay Singh shot 70 each, and three other Indians SSP Chowrasia, Jyoti Randhawa and Om Prakash Chouhan carded 71 each. There were a total of 14 Indians in top 25, who were even par or better.
Lahiri knocked in five birdies, three of them from close to 20 feet, and had just two bogeys, both times missing short par putts. There were two other birdie misses from less than eight feet.
Das, sixth at the SAIL-SBI Open last month at the same venue, could also have gone under 70 as he stood at three-under 16 holes, but he made missed a short par putt on eighth and ended at 70.
Randhawa, starting on the tenth, had a birdie on 11th, but three successive bogeys from 15th to 17th saw him turn in two-over. Then after the turn, Randhawa was a changed player. Coming to terms with the windy conditions, he found birdies on third, fifth and seventh and with no more bogeys, he was under-par at 71, which in the morning session was a fine score on such a day.
Towards the end of the evening, Sanjay Kumar, who had a bogey-bogey start also finished at 70 with three birdies on the back nine.
Chowrasia, starting from the back nine, had two birdies on either side of the course and three bogeys for his 71. “I had a birdie on 11th and then a give-in on par-5 14th, where I hit my third shot to two feet and then had good birdies on first and sixth. That bogey on 18th was a bit disappointing, but overall it was a good score on a difficult day.”
Trying to avoid the traffic restrictions on account of the BRIC Summit in the capital, Lahiri, who had an afternoon tee-off, arrived at the club early in the morning. “When I came in the morning, the conditions were okay, but it was much harder playing in the afternoon. I remember going for a bite and came back out and the conditions were entirely different. It was tough. Peter (Karmis) and Pariya (Junhasavasdikul) were playing good but it only took one shot to turn things around,” he said.
“When the conditions are like these you don’t have options. You can only hit one shot especially if the winds are blowing 30 or 40 kilometres per hour. It was all about execution and not much about strategy. The conditions dictated your strategy. Given the wind, you had to hit your shots low and try not to fight the wind as much as possible.”
He added, “I hit a lot of good golf shots. To be quite fair, I missed a couple of shots on the front nine and made a lot of putts on the back so that even things out. If anything, I would have liked to finish the last hole with a birdie. I hit a perfect tee shot but hit my approach shot short of the green. I was very lucky on the 16th hole. I could have gone seven or eight feet past the hole. I’m happy I caught a break here and there.”
Manav Jaini, one of the local DGC lads, had the steadiest round with 18 pars in his 72, while Chiragh Kumar, who was a runner-up at the Indian Open at this venue pulled out midway because of ankle injury.
Another one pulling out due to a shoulder injury was Adam Blyth. Also Suffering in tough conditions on the opening was Rikard Karlberg (76), who has twice won at the DGC, as also DGC veteran Ali Sher (77) and Thaworn Wiratchant (74), all of whom have tasted wins at the DGC.