Harpal Singh Bedi
New Delhi: Kolkata’s Shankar Das and Australian Travis Smyth carded identical 5 under par 67 to hold the day one lead in the inaugural The DGC Open at the Delhi Golf Club on Thursday.
Later riding on a brace of late birdies Veer Ahlawat shared third place alongside Thailand’s Nitithorn Thippong on 4-under 68.
With the wind picking up as the day wore on, low scores were at a premium on the Gary Player redesigned Lodhi Course of the DGC, which is hosting the fourth event of the Asian Tour’s 2022 season.
The South African golf icon also ceremonially teed off the US $500,000 event in the morning and held his audience spell-bound in an hour-long clinic.
With bogeys and double-bogeys littering the leader-board, it is clear that scoring on the quick, re-contoured greens is proving to be a testing task for the 138-strong field. “The greens may look terrific but they’re hard to read,” noted one suffering professional after handing in his card.
There was also good news for home golfers with as many as five Indians in the top-8 – Das, Ahlawat (68), Ajeetesh Sandhu (67), PGTI Q-School winner Varun Parikh (70), and Karandeep Kochhar (69).
Smyth rode an eagle 3 on the par-5 14th hole to change gears and claim sole possession at the top of the leaderboard before Das put in a charge later in the morning session.
The pony-tailed Australian then added four birdies against one dropped shot for his day’s 5-under score while the experienced Das, who has seven domestic titles but none since 2017, carded six birdies against one bogey to build his total for the day.
“I was good off the tees today and used mostly my 3-wood. And while my chipping was not that great I was able to make up with my putting today which was really good for me. In fact, I practised hard with the 3-wood before travelling here for The DGC Open,” said Das.
Smyth pointed to his eagle as being the key of the day, saying, “The eagle on 14 was definitely a momentum-changer. I hit a 2-iron off the tee thinking that it would take three shots to get to the green but I got a good roll. Followed that with a 3-iron that reached the top shelf of the green to give me a 15-foot putt. It really got the round going though it still wasn’t easy out there.”
“The wind was definitely a factor, especially in the second nine. It was pretty calm in the morning but it started to swirl around quite a bit later. The anxiety levels were definitely high,” he added with a smile. “The greens were just perfect, a little tricky as it wasn’t going with the grain. So reading the greens right was key.”
“This is in fact my first time at the Delhi Golf Club and I’m just loving it. I’d actually like to know if it’s the tightest course in the world, because it felt that way for sure. My strength is my iron play and I’m quite happy with that here at the DGC”, he added.
For the in-form Ahlawat, it was a matter of keeping his head down on a tough day. “I was going well and could have capitalised further but for a bogey on 12. Two birdies after that helped me further and I just kept it going with pars on my last two holes.”
With scores rising as the day wore on, positions changed frequently and as many as 13 were in a share of ninth place including event sponsor Mastercard’s brand ambassador Shiv Kapur, Patna’s Aman Raj, Delhi golfers Shamim Khan, Sachin Baisoya and Manu Gandas of Gurgaon.
“I started off quite well, was quite happy with my round, 4-under for the first 10 holes. Then I hit a bit of a speed-bump on the back nine,” Kapur said. “I didn’t quite have my A-game today. Made a couple of sloppy bogies coming in and that made the difference between a good and an average round.”