Dream start for Chowrasia

NOIDA, JUNE 1. Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia fired a memorable round of six-under-par 66 leaving the majority of the pros gushing under the searing June heat, after the first round in the PGAI-TSM open tournament at the Noida Golf Course here on Tuesday.

Chowrasia looked hardly affected though mercury touched 45 degrees as he made a turn at one-under, and then played a bogey-free back nine to establish one stroke lead at the season-ending Rs. 28 lakh tournament.

"I have recently changed my driver and this new Cleveland Launcher has perfectly jelled with my style. It's giving me the extra length on the long holes and today everything fell in place though I missed making two more birdies on the front nine,'' Chowrasia said.

Chowrasia played a fantastic round nevertheless but it wouldn't be all that rosy with three more rounds still to go. Already, he has the trio of Digvijay Singh, Uttam Singh Mundy and Gurbaaz Mann, waiting to pounce.

The trio posted cards of 67 and were followed by the quartet of Amit Dube, Indrajit Bhalotia, Shamim Khan and Suleman Ali, all a stroke behind at 68. In fact, there were 40 golfers on the leaderboard with par or better scores, negating the popular notion that the game shouldn't be played under such scorching conditions. Many complained of the heat, but the scores told a different story.

Chowrasia, who won the Noida Open here early in this season and finished third in the Padampat Singhania Open at this same course, described his opening round as a dream start. He opened with a par missing a four-feet birdie putt, but kept his nerves cool and swung his driver more straighter and more often than the others. Birdie of the par-4 fourth was negated when he drifted from the seventh tee into the rough of the 16th hole. From there he three-putted to bogey but finished the outward stretch one-under with a six-feet birdie on the par-4 ninth.

At the turn, his fortunes also turned for good. Birdies on the par-3 10th and par-5 14th boosted his confidence before he pulled his driver out again on the 17th. He followed that up with three-wood and made a 25-feet putt for an eagle before he closed for the day birdying the par-4 18th with a 12-feet putt.

Uttam Singh Mundy, twice winner of the PGA Championship, made couple of errors but still kept himself in line for a bigger pay-cheque. "I guess when more money is stake I tend to play well,'' Mundy said of his round of 67. Mundy made an amazing start going six-under after the first nine holes. In fact, he birdied the seven of the first eight holes before an unfortunate bogey on the par-4 ninth pegged him down a bit.

"'I made bad second shots on the ninth and 10th where I made bogeys,'' Mundy said. Then on 17th, Mundy put too much an effort and in turn pulled his drive into the water. But for a double-bogey on the longest par-5 on the course, Mundy would have had his day under the sun.

Meanwhile, Harinder Gupta had his baptism to the pro tour with a mixed round. Gupta, who earned two-year exemption on the PGAI Tour after winning the Hero Pro Golf tournament in Chandigarh in April, started tentatively as he double bogeyed the first hole. He took the turn at four-over but recovered in time to end the day at level par.

The scores: S.S.P. Chowrasia 66; Digvijay Singh, Gurbaaz Mann and Uttam Singh Mundy 67; Amit Dube, Indrajit Bhalotia, Shamim Khan and Suleman Ali 68; Akbar Ali, Harmeet Kahlon, Mukesh Kumar and Rafiq Ali 69; Arjun Singh, Ashok Kumar, D. S. Raghuvanshi, Feroz Ali, Raj Kumar and Toran Bikram Shah 70; Ali Sher, Basad Ali, Mohammed Maqbool, Rajesh Kumar Rawat, Rohit Chaudhary and Sachin Janardhan 71.Amateurs: Anitya Chand, Jasjeet Singh and Simarjeet Singh 73; Karanjit Singh 74.