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HELP NEEDED: Digvijay Singh (middle) seeks the referee's assistance on the 18th hole before carding a 6-under in the Indian Open. Atthaphon Prathummanee (left) and Danny Chia look on. Photo: Sandeep Saxena
NEW DELHI: A 20-yard `eagle' from the front bunker on the eighth hole saw Sri Lanka's Anura Rohana soar over the field and land atop the leaderboard with a card of eight-under 64 on an eventful opening day of the $300,000 Hero Honda Indian Open golf tournament here on Thursday.
Rohana, best known for winning the silver medal behind Shiv Kapur in the 2002 Busan Asian Games, now enjoys a one-stroke lead over Australia's Craig Warren.
Sharing the third spot at 66 were Digivijay Singh and South Africa's Hendrik Buhrmann. A stroke behind was a pack of four, including the day's early leader Rahul Ganapathy and Gaurav Ghei.
On a day when 23 Indians broke par on the 6882-yard Delhi Golf Club course, Simarjeet Singh led the amateurs with a round of 68. Jaiveer Virk kept him company in the joint ninth spot. It was also a rarity that the top-15 bracket of an Asian Tour event had a Lankan leader, five Indians, including an amateur, and a Pakistani.
Arjun Atwal made up for a third-hole double bogey with three successive birdies on the inward nine for a card of 70. Jyoti Randhawa, another Indian favourite, shot one better to be in the company of Ashok Kumar, Gurbaaz Mann and Vinod Kumar, among others.
Even as Atwal missed too many birdie-opportunities in search of his rhythm, Rohana was on song. The 32-year-old seemed to have started from where he had left off in April this year when he shot a nine-under 63 in the last round of the Rs. 50-lakh PSPB Open. That effort made him share the course record held by Myanmar's Zao Moe.
Not many are aware that in October last, Rohana equalled the course record 63 at the Yalong Bay Golf Club in the Southern Chinese island of Hainan during the third round of Sanya Open.
If the highlight of Rohana's play on Thursday was the `eagle' that went with seven birdies, against a bogey, the most interesting feature was that he used a 11-iron, something most professionals have not even heard of. On the par-four 353-yard 15th hole, Rohana teed off with a 4-iron to be 85-yard from the flag.
Here, with the help of his 11-iron, which is more like a pitching wedge with a 46-degree loft, Rohana landed the ball to about three feet from the pin and putted for his third birdie on the day.
It was not just Rohana's hitting and putting that was good on this day. He used his sand-wedge very effectively to come out of the bunkers. The only time he erred was on the par-four third hole. "I like the speed of the greens here. It is just right for me," said Rohana after getting almost everything right.
"Is this your home course?" asked Digvijay Singh when Rohana returned after the day's work. After all, Digvijay himself had led for the better part of the day. The Meerut-based pro spoke of "feeling mentally stronger" this time and owed the card of 66 to his putting.
Earlier, Rahul Ganapathy had a good reason to reinforce his growing belief that he belonged to this level. With a 67, he found his name atop the leaderboard before Digvijay displaced it. In fact, Ganapathy could have finished with an improved score had he not bogeyed the final hole.
The 26-year-old "Mysore boy," as he prefers to be called, produced his best round on the course where he won his first National amateur title in the 1999-2000 season.
The scores (Indians unless stated): Anura Rohana (Sri) 64; Craig Warren (Aus) 65; Digvijay Singh and Hendrik Buhrmann (RSA) 66 each; Rahul Ganapathy, Terry Pilkadaris (Aus), Yeh Chang-ting (Tpe) and Gaurav Ghei 67 each; Thaworn Wiratchant (Tha), Atthaphon Prathummanee (Tha), Unho Park (Aus), Unho Park (Aus), Gary Simpson (Aus), Mohammad Munir (Pak), Simarjeet Singh (A), Jaiveer Virk, Bryan Saltus (USA) and Gerald Rosales (Phi) 68 each.
Other Indians (sub-par cards only): Jyoti Randhawa, Ashok Kumar, Gurbaaz Mann and Vinod Kumar 69 each; Shiv Kapur, Mohammad Islam, Jasjeet Singh (A), Sanjay Kumar, Arjun Atwal, C. Munniappa and Gurki Shergill 70 each; Randhir Ghotra, Mukesh Kumar, Harmeet Kahlon, Shamim Khan, Naman Dawar, Amandeep Johl and Mohammad Salim 71 each.
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