Gangjee leads a strong Indian challenge on opening day at Panasonic Open India

Rahil-Gangjee-2New Delhi: Rahil Gangjee led a strong Indian challenge in the opening round of the fourth Panasonic Open India 2014, as he opened a two-shot lead after the first day the Delhi Golf Club.

Gangjee started with a bogey on tenth before finding seven birdies enroute to a card of six-under 66, while five other Rashid Khan (68), Akshay Kumar (69), Shankar Das (69), Om Prakash Chouhan (69) and amateur Pratap Atwal (69) were also in top-10 after Thursday’s play.

Gangjee, who has been looking to add to his first and only Asian Tour title won in his rookie year in 2004, started with a bogey and ended with a birdie-birdie finish for a 66. Gangjee showed great tactical acumen while negotiating the tricky DGC to lead by two shots over four others.

Title holder Wade Ormsby of Australia birdied the last hole from close range after missing an eagle chance to tie for second place on 68 with Singapore’s Choo Tze Huang, Bangladeshi Zamal Hossain and Rashid Khan of India, who won at the Delhi course in March.

India’s Akshay Sharma, who plays on the domestic Feeder Tour, where he won his first title this season, and experienced Shankar Das were amongst eight players, including Indian amateur Pratap Atwal, tied in sixth place on identical 69s. They were three shots off the pace in the event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI).

“I’ve been playing at the DGC from the age of 13 and I know this course well. I’ve also received good advice from my coach Ajai Gupta on how to approach the DGC. He showed me a really nice way to play on this golf course. He said this is a chess game. You go from point A to point B. So I generally pick a spot when I’m hitting me tee shots and approach shots at the DGC.That kind of mind-set really helps because you pick a yardage off the tees and you hit it to a spot you want. It’s like playing a par three,” said Gangjee.

The 36-year-old, who is aiming to end a 10-year title drought, opened with a bogey but battled back with seven birdies including an eight-footer birdie on eight followed by a 15-footer on his closing ninth hole.

“Things happened gradually and slowly for me today. I’m glad it did because that’s what builds momentum. If things happen in a hurry, you tend to slow down sometimes. Even though I bogeyed the first hole, I thought to myself that people have come back to shoot a really low round. By the time I got to nine, I was well on my way,” Gangjee said with a smile. “I’ve had some top-10s this year but now I feel I’m at a stage where I can achieve much more.”

After winning his first Asian Tour title at the SAIL-SBI Open in March on the same venue this year, Rashid Khan rolled in a 25-footer on the 18th hole to stay within sight of the leader.

“I’m eager to play well at my home course once again. I’m carrying the good memories from my win earlier this year. t’s been a fantastic year for me so far and another good week here would help me make an impact on the Order of Merit,” said Rashid, who is ranked 22nd on the Asian Tour Merit rankings.

Ormsby got off to a flying start in his title defence after shooting four straight birdies from the fifth hole which cancelled out his only bogey of the day on hole four. A sublime chip on 14 kept him in the hunt after an errant tee shot forced him to take an unplayable.

“The conditions were perfect. It is always a bit windy here in the afternoon which makes things tricky but it will be perfect in the morning. It is nice to get through the afternoon without too much damage,” said the 34-year-old Ormsby.

“I made a great par save on the par five 14th hole. I took an unplayable then hit a great lob shot from the right rough from 75 yards and made the putt. That kept the momentum going,” he added.

Without a driver in the golf bag, Choo, who started on hole 10, played brilliantly before losing focus and dropping shots on holes seven and nine.

Without a driver in the golf bag, Choo was playing brilliantly through 15 holes before losing focus and dropping shots on holes seven and nine. In his third appearance at the Delhi Golf Club, the bespectacled Singaporean believes he knows the key to success here.

“I’m definitely more prepared this year compared to my first two years. I holed a lot of putts but lost focus on the last few holes. Maybe I got a bit nervous. My driver is in the house, it is not even close to the golf club. I just have a three-wood, hybrid and driving iron,” said Choo.