The bigger Indian names struggled in varying degrees. Those from Thailand lived up to the expectations of giving the home challengers a close run. When the dust settled after an intriguing opening round of the $300,000 SAIIL-SBI Open golf championship, Asian Tour debutant Khalin Joshi and World record holder Chapchai Nirat shared a one-stroke lead at the Delhi Golf Club course here on Wednesday.
Nirat, winner of the 2009 edition with a world record score of 32-under, and Joshi, who turned pro after being the country’s top amateur last season, brought in cards of six-under 66. The seasoned Thai started and ended the day with bogeys but, in between, putted exceptionally well to sink eight birdies.
The Bangalore-based Joshi, too, putted beyond expectations and found nine birdies against three bogeys.
On a day when 34 players returned sub-par cards and 21 shot par, Shiv Kapur settled for a 69 following an eventful round. He took the turn at seven-under but faltered on the home-run. On the par-4 sixth, Kapur needed eight strokes for a rare quadruple bogey that spoilt his card.
The day proved to be a tough for some of the more illustrious professionals. Thailand’s Chawalit Plaphol, the current leader on the Asian Tour, shot a 74, same as the talented Himmat Rai. If Gaganjeet Bhullar slipped to 75, Jyoti Randhawa could stop only at 76.
With the cut’ likely to come at one-over, Bhullar and Randhawa will have to produce far better scores on Thursday to stay in the competition.
Meanwhile, looking to defend the title, Anirban Lahiri started with a 71 and Rikard Karlberg, the 2010 winner, carded a 72. But the day truly belonged to Lahiri’s good friend and city-mate Joshi.
“It was a great start. I putted really well today. I’ve been hitting the ball well the past few weeks but the putter was hot today, made quite a few birdies. Hit a great tee-shot on seventh to two inches, wish it was a hole in one but it’s okay,” said the youngster and continued, “this is the first week I am not playing with my driver. I’ll do that the whole week. Just keep the same attitude.”
Another talking point of the day was Kapur’s horrendous quadruple bogey. In the words of Kapur, “Like I was telling Dean Jones (the great Australian cricketer who was following Shiv’s group), the front nine was like India and the back nine was like Australia (in recent cricket Test matches). It was quite disappointing to finish that way after my start. I don’t think I’ve ever made an eight on that hole in my 20 years of playing here.”
Kapur, the winner of two back-to-back stroke-play events in the country, elaborated, “I hit my tee-shot right and struck the monument and went further right in the bush. I tried to chip out but it clipped the stone and went back into the bush and had to take an ‘unplayable’ inside the bush. Back on the fairway and hit my fifth to the back of the green and then missed the putt.”
The scores: Khalin Joshi, Chapchai Nirat (Tha) 66; Chan Kim (US) 67; Mohd. Siddikur Rahman (Ban), Chiragh Kumar 68; Carlon Pigem (Esp), Namchok Antipokakul (Tha), Shiv Kapur, Jason Knutzon (US), Manav Jaini and Abhishek Jha 69.
Other Indians with sub-par scores: Arshdeep Tiwana, S.S.P. Chowrasia, Ajeetesh Sandhu 70; Sudhir Sharma, Rahul Gangjee, Vijay Kumar, Anirban Lahiri and Mohammad Islam 71.