Alejandro Canizares (Getty Images)
A closing birdie took Alejandro Cañizares into a share of the lead after the first round of the Avantha Masters as the Spaniard looks for his first win since 2006.
The 29 year old birdied the long ninth to complete a back nine 32 and six under par 66 at DLF Golf & Country Club.
That matched the effort of Scotland’s Peter Whiteford, with Italy’s Federico Colombo a shot further back in third.
Cañizares began on the back nine with birdies at the 11th and 15th, before gaining four shots in six holes immediately after the turn.
A first bogey of the day came at the seventh, but his lengthy closing birdie putt secured a share of the lead on a tightly-packed leaderboard.
“It’s always nice to finish on a high like that,” said the former Russian Open winner. “I didn’t hit a great wedge shot into the green so it was nice to sink the putt.
“I played very steady and I putted quite nicely. The only mistake I made was missing a short putt on the seventh so I made a bogey. But overall it was a nice round with not many mistakes. I had a couple of wayward drives but nothing serious and I felt very comfortable.
“I made a couple of long putts but all the others were from inside ten feet or so. Overall it was very steady and pretty good.
“Hopefully I can keep this going and be in contention going into the final round.”
Whiteford was only one under par at the turn, but the 31 year old – still chasing his first European Tour title – birdied four in a row from the tenth.
A further gain came at the driveable par four 17th, and the former Challenge Tour graduate felt improvements to his long game had been pivotal.
“It was the first time I’ve hit the fairways in months,” he said. “In the stats I probably didn’t hit that many fairways, but it felt a lot better.
“I hit a lot more drivers than people usually do out there and just took advantage of the course and bullied it a little. It can bite you easily though if you’re not careful. I had a bad one down the last but apart from that it’s mainly the driving that was loads better today.”
Colombo, 24, was the only one of the top three to compile a bogey-free round, with Himmat Rai the leading home player on four under along with Wales’ Jamie Donaldson, former US Open runner-up Gregory Havret, his fellow Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Gonnet and Thai duo Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who carded the best score of the morning starters.