India's Jyoti Randhawa delighted the locals at Delhi Golf Club with a superb seven under par 65 to take the lead after the first round of the EMAAR-MGF Indian Masters. He moved two shots clear of England's Richard Finch and Damien McGrane of Ireland.
Randhawa reached the turn in 34 but it was coming for home that he truly turned on the fireworks with eagle threes on the course’s two par fives on the inward half, the 14th and the 18th, the latter ensuring huge cheers from the packed stands.
“Delhi Golf Club, what can I say – it keeps me under pressure but I love it and I do seem to play well here,” said Randhawa, who has won around the course on five previous occasions – four times in Asian Tour events and once in a domestic Indian tournament.
“I played well again today and you can’t really ask for a better first round than that – I am very happy with it. Also what a great way to finish. I had a about 15 feet left after two three woods to the green and when I hit it I knew it was in, it was perfect speed and a perfect putt. Great.”
One of his closest challengers, England’s Richard Finch, also enjoyed the thrill of an eagle but of the slightly rarer sort, an eagle two at the 377 yard second hole where his nine iron approach found the bottom of the cup on his way to a 67.
“I said to my caddie, ‘that has got to be good’ when it was in the air and where it landed on the green it was on a little downslope and I couldn’t quite see,” he said. “I thought it was probably short of the pin but it was a nice surprise when I got up to the green.”
Alongside Finch, Ireland’s Damien McGrane continued the good form he showed in last week’s Dubai Desert Classic to also post a 67.
“It’s a fairly demanding course and it is difficult to get up and down consistently out there, the ball reacts differently on every shot and every putt,” he said. “So it is about making birdies whenever you get the opportunity and keeping bogeys off the card as much as possible.”
Three players shared fourth place, another Indian favourite Shiv Kapur, Spain’s José Manuel Lara and Denmark’s Thomas Björn.
The Dane – who partnered favourite Ernie Els who struggled to an opening 75 – dropped a shot at the last but carded five birdies elsewhere in a tidy four under par 68.
“I played pretty solid until the last few holes but overall I was fairly steady from the tee which you have to be here,” said Björn. “I took it a bit conservative off the tee, took a couple of chances and they came off. It was a nice day and a good start so I’ll work from there.”
Kapur had a different take on his day. “It was a bit of a scratchy round for me and it was one of those days where you had to grind it out and be patient and try and make things happen,” he said. “To shoot 68 is a pretty good start but the way I played and the fact I made seven birdies, I would have hoped for a better score.”
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