Veteran Mukesh Kumar of Mhow, realising playing long on this course will only land him in deep trouble after the first hole, stayed on fairways and carded the best score on the opening day of the McLeod Russel Tour golf championship at the RCGC here on Wednesday.

His four-under-68 enabled him to stay ahead of Rolex ranking leader Rashid Khan of Delhi, Manav Jaini, also of Delhi and Zamal Hossain Mollah of Bangladesh by a stroke.

His tee shot on the first hole landed out of bounds and resulted in a bogey. “I realised then that I should not be hitting long. Instead, I tried to stay on the narrow fairways and aimed for the greens,” he said after the day’s play.

He got back to level-par with a birdie on the par-5 fourth hole after narrowly missing an eagle putt from 15 feet.

His game picked up once he settled down to a rhythm.

The 48-year-old landed his approach shot within a couple of inches of the pin for birdie on the eighth and then sank a 10-feet putt to pick up another stroke on the ninth and make the turn at two-under.

He continued to play well on the back-nine sinking a 15-feet birdie putt on the 12. He followed it up with his fifth birdie on the 13th.

“This RCGC course is tough. My experience has really helped me play well today. It is about placing your tee shot well. I am not too happy with my putting though,” said Mukesh.

Rashid Khan (three-under) occupied joint second place with six birdies and three bogeys. Rashid was joined by Jaini in tied second place.

Jaini had four birdies and a bogey. Zamal Hossain Mollah also had four birdies and a bogey.

Delhi golfers Shamim Khan, Karan Vasudeva, Bangalore’s C. Muniyappa, Ranjit Singh of Chandigarh, Sri Lankan Mithun Perera and Bangladeshi Shakhawat Hossain Sohel were in tied fifth position each going two-under.

Jyoti Randhawa and Rahil Gangjee were in the tied 11th place at one-under.

Local favourite S.S.P. Chowrasia was a further shot behind in tied 17th place. Anirban Lahiri had a round of 74 to be tied 32nd.

Top scores: 68: Mukesh Kumar; 69: M.Z.H. Mollah (Ban), M. Jaini and Rashid Khan; 70: K. Vasudeva, M.S.D. Sohel (Ban), Ranjit Singh, C. Muniyappa, Mithun Perera (SL) and Shamim Khan; 71: R. Murty, Sujjan Singh, O.P. Chouhan, R. Gangjee, J. Randhawa and Harendra Gupta.

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