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.

India’s hero

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.

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