With most stars failing to play to their reputation, a lesser-known Thai fired an awe-inspiring 11-under 61 in conditions assisting low scores.
On a warm opening day of the 1.8-million euros Avantha Masters golf, Chinnarat Phadungsil spectacularly sank eight birdies on the back-nine of Jaypee Greens course here in a round of 11-under 61 for a five-stroke lead.
Young Abhijit Singh Chadha was the unlikely Indian hero. Less than 24 hours after collecting the PGTI’s ‘Emerging Player of the Year’ award, Chadha exceeded expectations by firing a flawless 66 for the lead but eventually shared the second spot.
Rashid Khan finished a stroke behind Chadha at 67. Jeev Milkha Singh, five-under at the end of 16 holes, bogeyed the last two holes for a 69.
Briefly, Australia’s Scott Hend moved to seven-under for the second spot but bogeys on the last two holes pulled him down. The Ryder Cup stars, barring David Howell had a tough time. Colin Montgomerie was in danger of missing the ‘cut’ after a 76. Edoardo Molinari, Ignacio Garrido and Thomas Levet shot par while Philip Price carded a 74. On a day when 77 players, including 15 Indians broke par, Phadungsil’s birdie-spree remained the talking-point. The smiling Thai took the turn at 33 and then birdied the first four holes.
He sank a monstrous 50-foot birdie-putt on the 14th hole, almost found a ‘eagle’ on the 15th after pitching in, before hitting his approach shot on the 16th to two feet on way to seven straight birdies!
Following a par on the 17th hole, Phadungsil produced a brilliant approach shot on the 18th to set up his 11th birdie, this time, from just six inches.
“My best ever round,” said Phadungsil, the 24-year-old winner of three Asian Tour titles but without a win since 2009. On a course designed for long hitters, Chadha enjoyed a highly fruitful day on his European Tour debut. The 21-year old from Chandigarh, a member of the silver-medal winning Indian team in the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhao, produced a flawless round with six birdies. Using the driver to send the ball past the 300-yard mark, Chadha also managed to hole some incredible putts.
Starting from the 10th tee, Chadha sank the day’s longest birdie-putt, from 40 feet, on the 16th and then birdied the sixth and ninth holes from around 25 feet. The way he saved a par on the 17th, with a good up-and-down putt, reflected the youngster’s confidence.
The scores (Indians unless stated): Chinnarat Phadungsil (Tha) 61; Abhijit Singh Chadha, Chawalit Phaphol (Tha), Magnus Carlsson (Swe), Chapchai Nirat (Tha) and Wenchong Liang (Chn) 66 each; Joonas Granberg (Fin), Jaakko Makitalo (Fin), Thomas Aiken (RSA), David Drysdale (Sco), Rikard Karlberg (Swe), Scott Hend (Aus), Scott Barr (Aus) and Rashid Khan 67 each.
Other Indians with sub-par scores: S.S.P. Chowrasia, Gaganjeet Bhullar, Anirban Lahiri, Ashok Kumar 68 each; Rahil Gangjee, Jeev Milkha Singh 69 each; Gaurav Pratap Singh, Jyoti Randhawa, Himmat Rai, Digvijay Singh, Manav Jaini 70 each; Abhinav Lohan and Om Prakash Chauhan 71.