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Thursday, 17 February 2011
Robert-Jan Derksen  (Getty Images)
Robert-Jan Derksen (Getty Images)

Robert-Jan Derksen set the first round clubhouse target at the Avantha Masters before revealing he plans to take the trophy to India’s most famous landmark if he wins on Sunday.

The Dutchman carded a six under par 66 at DLF Golf and Country Club in New Delhi before spilling the beans on an unusual bet with his caddie.

“I’ve got a bet with my caddie that if we win this week we’ll take the trophy to the Taj Mahal, but I need to win first of course,” said the 37 year old.

“I’ve never been and I think this is a great occasion to make that happen.”

Derksen started his round on the back nine and although he missed birdie opportunities on his first two holes, he got the ball rolling with a ten footer on the 12th.

Further birdies followed at the 17th, 18th, third and sixth before he completed his scoring at the ninth – his last – with an 18 foot effort.

The two-time European Tour winner only broke 70 twice on the recent Desert Swing and put the improvement down to work he has been doing on the greens.

“It was good. It was a bit of a wait this morning, but it was worth the wait,” said Derksen, referring to fog which delayed the start by three-and-a-half hours.

“I played steady, drove it nicely – I think that’s important on this course. Putting was much better than the last few weeks, I’ve struggled a little bit with that but today it was much better.

“I think these greens you need to be more patient, I think I was very patient today. I’ve worked hard on my putting the last few days.”

Derksen holds a one shot lead over Argentina’s Julio Zapata and England’s Mark Foster, who both recorded five under par rounds of 67, as well as Australian Darren Beck who had five holes to play.

Challenge Tour graduate Zapata is seeking a first top-ten finish on The European Tour, and the 34 year old made a positive start with an eagle at the [par five sixth and four birdies on the way in.

Foster has not won on The European Tour since 2003, but the 35 year old holed a 20 foot birdie putt on the eighth – his penultimate hole – to complete a six birdie, three bogey round, which also featured an eagle two at the 15th.

Amongst the group on four under are last year’s runner-up Richard Finch, who birdied his last two holes in a bogey-free round, and home favourite Jeev Milkha Singh.

Two over par after seven holes and a trip to the water, the Indian superstar stormed back with four birdies and a closing eagle on the par five ninth to move firmly in contention.

Derksen’s compatriot Maarten Lafeber, who like Foster recorded his only European Tour title eight years ago, had a hole in one at the par three 11th to follow four birdies on his front nine.

But three bogeys in his last seven holes saw him sign for a three under 69 – although he did win a Volvo XC 60 for his ace.

“It was 160 metres with the wind coming in a little bit off the right,” he said.

“I hit a punchy, three-quarter six iron. I aimed a little right of the pin to allow the wind to bring it in and hit it perfectly. It was going straight for the flag but we couldn’t tell if it was in or just very close. We were all looking and wondering until the crowd started clapping and jumping around so then we knew that it was in.

“I have had a few on Tour but I have never won a car. I had won at the Volvo Scandinavian Masters one year but didn’t win a car, then I had one at the K Club in Ireland and won a weekend at the K Club and now I have this one and I finally won the car.

“Nice to win the car but I have to be honest that I was really upset when I finished the round because I missed three really short outs from less than three feet during my final holes today and it ruined my score. I was six under and played really nicely all day and just putted horrendously.” 

Roughly half the field will return at 0715 local time on Friday to complete their first rounds, with second round tee times pushed back two hours and 20 minutes.

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