Arjun Singh in lead with eight-under

NEW DELHI, NOV. 1. Asian PGA Tour regular Arjun Singh surprised one and all as he fired a bogey-free opening round of eight-under 64 to take the top spot in the Honda-Siel PGA Championship at the Delhi Golf Club course here on Thursday.

Notching birdies on the first two holes, Arjun Singh set the tone for the rest of the day as he made six more birdies to overshadow Mukesh Kumar, who had taken an early clubhouse lead with six- under 66.

Mukesh eventually ended up in the second place while Uttam Singh Mundy and Shiv Prakash were two strokes further down. If Arjun was solid off the tee, Mukesh did well on the newly relaid greens with several long putts.

It was an anti-climax start to the tenth leg of the Hero Honda Indian PGA Tour with the defending champion Jyoti Randhawa and the in-form Vivek Bhandari struggling to come to the terms with the course.

With enough jungle around the fairways, a slight mistake on the tee shot can land one in trouble. Bhandari found the rough a couple of times while Randhawa made good approach shots but could not compliment his drives with his putting. Randhawa carded 71 to be 21st while Bhandari (74) was 52nd on the leaderboard.

``I avoided hitting the drivers and maintained myself on the fairways. I wanted to start well and would have been happy breaking 70, but this score was just too great,'' said Arjun Singh. ``I was hitting the ball unbelievably well,'' he added.

Arjun Singh, who missed action for two years before making a comeback early in 2001 because of a niggling back injury, said he missed two makeable putts on the 12th and the 15th holes. ``Greens are fantastic and fairways are excellent,'' said Arjun, the winner of the Hero Golf Chandigarh Open last month.

Having birdied the first two holes on the outward stretch, he made another birdie on the par-3 seventh. On the home stretch, Arjun Singh had birdies on the 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th and the 18th. On the par-5 18th, Arjun Singh had a chance for an eagle but his putt from 35 feet fell short. Mukesh Kumar, one of those who teed off early on a hazy morning, putted well to end up comfortably. For his 18 holes, he had only 23 putts the best being a 30-foot putt from the right of the 13th green. Mukesh Kumar, who came fourth in the 2000 edition, also had a bogey-free round on Thursday.

Among the foreign participants, Sweden's Daniel Chopra managed a respectable 70 to be tied with seven others.

While the other big names struggled on the opening day, the amateurs made hay for a while.

Manav Jaini, who has just turned 18, carded an impressive 68 to be tied third with fellow amateur Simarjeet Singh, and pros Shiv Prakash and Mundy.

The scores: Arjun Singh 64; Mukesh Kumar 66; Manav Jaini (A), Shiv Prakash, Simarjeet Singh (A) and Uttam Singh Mundy 68; Amit Dube, Gaurav Ghei, Harmeet Kahlon and Rohtas Singh 69; Amritinder Singh, Daniel Chopra (Sweden), Digvijay Singh, Mohd. Nawab, Rahil Gangjee, Ranjit Singh, Suleman Ali and V. Arumugam (Malaysia) 70; Amit Luthra (A), Gaurav Diwan, Jyoti Randhawa and Vishal Singh 71; Ajit Das, Dinesh Kumar, Firoz Ali, Rafiq Ali, Rajesh Kumar Rawa, Vijay Kumar and Zai Kipgen 72.

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