Thursday, 28 February 2008

Argentina’s Daniel Vancsik and India’s Shamin Khan share the lead after the first day of the Johnnie Walker Classic with two of the star attractions, Adam Scott and Jeev Milkha Singh, among those snapping at their heels in the group just one stroke adrift.

Vancsik and Khan posted matching rounds of 67, five under par, at the DLF Golf and Country Club on the outskirts of New Delhi to hold a one shot lead over a group of 11 players.

Singh, India’s standard bearer, looked poised to top the first round leaderboard when he edged past them both with a sixth birdie of the round on the 15th but then bogeyed the next two holes to drop back into the pack.

Similarly Adam Scott had a chance to lead when he stood at five under with three to play but a “lazy” shot on the 16th was hit fat and found the water, costing the World Number Five a double bogey. He bounced back with a birdie on the next, however, to finish the day well placed at four under par as he looks for a second European Tour title in five weeks following his victory in Qatar last month.

Instead it was Vancsik and Khan who emerged as the unlikely first round leaders.  Vancsik, 31, who recorded his maiden European Tour victory when he won the Madeira Islands Open BPI last year, holed an eagle on the par five ninth to reach two under for his round before rolling in three birdies on the back nine.

Last year was a bumper year for Argentine golf with Vancsik one of four Argentine winners on The European Tour along with the US Open Champion Angel Cabrera, Andres Romero, winner of the Deutsche Bank Players’ Championship of Europe, and Ariel Canete, who won the inaugural Joburg Open.

“Every player in Argentina feels more confident after what happened last year,” he admitted. “I have been working hard since the end of the season  with my coach and psychology for this year and I feel very good.”

Khan is ranked a lowly 1377 in the Official World Golf Ranking and is still looking for his first ranking points but after watching his close friend SSP Chowrasia win the EMAAR-MGF Indian Masters on The European Tour’s previous visit to India, he knows anything is possible.

“SSP is an old friend of mine and I have been inspired by his victory,” he said. “It has set the tone for us to do well in the international events that come to India.”

Five birdies in a flawless 67 left Khan in a share of the lead at the end of another outstanding day for Indian golf in the event sanctioned by The European Tour, Asian Tour, PGA Tour of Australasia and the PGTI.

Singh has already won twice on The European Tour and almost added a third title but narrowly missed out in Indonesia a fortnight ago. For 15 holes he looked totally in control but missed a short putt on the 16th and his aggressive approach to the 17th where he went for the green proved costly. The par five 18th offers a birdie chance but Singh found sand with his second and a poor bunker shot scuppered his birdie hopes.

Another Indian, Rahil Gangjee, enjoyed the home experience to also shoot 68.

South African rookie James Kamte, nicknamed the Cobra, struck with an eagle on the ninth, his final hole to join the group  that also included Robert-Jan Derksen of The Netherlands, England’s Mark Foster, Australians Greg Chalmers, Unho Park and Paul Sheehan, American James Knutzon, and Japan’s Taichiro Kyoto.

Fiji's three-time Major winner Vijay Singh was unhappy with his two under round of 70 while Scotland's eight-time European Number One Colin Montgomerie struggled to post a two over 74 at the DLF Golf and Country Club course.

"It's very disappointing," Singh said."I hit the ball really well but didn't putt well. There were too many loose shots, I must say, five or six."


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