Harpal Singh Bedi
Gurugram: Shubhankar Sharma and Rahil Gangjee led the home side’s challenge as Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher and American Julian Suri at five-under-67 jointly led the field on the opening day of the Hero Indian Open at the DLF Golf & Country Club here on Thursday.
Shubhankar, carded three-under-69 to be at tied seventh place, two off the lead, Gangjee fired a steady two-under-70 and was tied 16th at the US$ 1.75 million event.
Shubhankar, a 10th tee starter, made an early gain with a long birdie conversion on the 12th. The 22-year-old, who was in good putting form through the day, then made two consecutive birdies on the 18th and first, the latter being another long conversion from 15 feet, to take his score to three-under.
Two-time European Tour winner Sharma’s excellent approach shot on the par-5 fourth landed six feet from the pin thus setting up an eagle for him.
The Chandigarh-based golfer was in the joint lead at five-under through 14 holes before he hit a rough patch on the sixth and seventh. He found the bunker on the sixth and seventh and thus dropped successive bogeys there to close the day with a three-under.
“I think I played very well today and didn’t make too many mistakes. I missed a couple of key putts on the front nine. Made a silly mistake on six and seven but apart from those holes I am pretty happy with how I finished” said Sharma.
Rahil Gangjee mixed three birdies with a bogey during his round of 70. The other Indians who got off to a decent start were Om Prakash Chouhan (71) tied 28th place, Gaganjeet Bhullar (72) and Rashid Khan (72) who were both in tied 46th place.
Among other prominent home side names, Shiv Kapur (74) and two-time Indian Open champion SSP Chawrasia (74) were both tied 76th while another former winner Anirban Lahiri (77) was tied 107th.
Stephen and Julian Suri, were followed by four others who carded four-under 68. That group included Robert Karlsson, Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal, South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout, and Thailand’s Prom Meesawat.
Placed Tied-7th with Sharma were Scott Hend, Thailand’s Prayad Marksaeng,Poom Saksansin, and Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura .
Gallacher, a three-time European Tour winner, fired a stunning 67 to take the morning clubhouse lead on his own while three players stayed one shot behind including Christiaan Bezuidenhout of South Africa, Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal and Robert Karlsson of Sweden.
Aiming for a first win on Indian soil, Hend recovered brilliantly from a bad front nine by closing with three consecutive birdies in his final three holes.
“After my 17th and 18th hole we thought we would be flying tomorrow night. I three-putted the 17th and hit two balls into the water hazard on hole 18 which was a bit of a nightmare. To come back after that was great, and I think so far this year this was the best round that I have played,” said Hend, coming off his 10th Asian Tour victory last week in Malaysia.
Gallacher and Suri had contrasting fortunes at the same Gary Player course at the DLF Golf and Country Club last year. The Scotsman was Tied-seventh, while Suri headed home early with rounds of 76-82. Gallacher’s card included six birdies, one bogey, a double and a closing eagle, while Suri had seven birdies and a bogey on either side of the course.
A year ago, Gallacher tied for seventh at the Hero Indian Open and that effort included five-under 67, which he equaled on Thursday. Gallacher said, “It was a perfect morning. Cool to start with and then it heated up later on in the round, and not too much wind, so it was perfect today.
“I think you have to get it in play off the tee, there is just so much trouble. I think if you get the tee shot in place you can hit a couple of nice iron shots and take advantage of the par fours that are quite short, drive a couple, and knock it onto the par fives. It is quite a strategic course. I don’t think you need to be the longest player on the Tour to play it, I think you’ve just got to plot your way around it.”