Wearing his favourite Augusta National T-shirt, rising India star Abhijit Chadha enhanced his burgeoning reputation with a flawless round of 66 on the opening day of the Avantha Masters.
A day after being named the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI)’s ‘Emerging Player for 2012’, the big-hitting 21 year old set the early clubhouse target on six under par – only for his efforts to be eclipsed by rampaging Thai Chinnarat Phadungsil, who shot a sensational 11 under par round of 61 at the equally stunning Jaypee Greens Golf & Spa Resort.
On a day of low scoring and high temperatures in Greater Noida, near New Delhi, Chadha occupied second place in the company of Challenge Tour champion Magnus Carlsson of Sweden; European Tour champion Liang Wen-chong of China; and the Thai duo of Chapchai Nirat, who shot a world record 32-under total in the 2009 SAIL Open, and Chawalit Plaphol, winner of the opening event of the 2013 Asian Tour season.
Chadha, the son of a Chandigarh-based businessman, is coached by Jesse Grewal, who also trains many other leading Indian professionals, including Himmat Rai.
Chadha said: “My putter was very hot today, I holed almost everything. I made a 40-footer for birdie on the 16th, and converted two 25-feet birdie putts on the sixth and ninth. So they were real bonuses because I would only expect to hole maybe one of them at most.”
Pressed on the Masters shirt he was wearing, Chadha smiled and said: “It’s my favourite shirt. That’s the one I really want to win, it’s my big dream.”
For the time being, Chadha was merely content to shoot the lowest round of the strong home contingent.
He said: “I hit it long, so this course suits my game. My average driving distance is 300 yards and with my new driver I’ve been smoking it and hitting it even further. The conditions were quite tough this morning with the swirling wind, so I’m all the more pleased with my six under.”
Clearly a cool customer, Chadha was not fazed at making his European Tour debut in this week’s €1.8million event.
He said: “I don’t feel the pressure of playing the Avantha Masters for the first time. The experience of playing many big international events during my amateur days has really helped me, as I played a lot of events overseas as part of the Indian team.
“But it’s the first time I’ve played an event co-sanctioned with The European Tour, so I’ve got no experience at all. I’ve played a couple of events on the Asian Tour but this is another step up. Playing with the big players really gives you lots of confidence, and it’s been a great experience for me so far.”
Among the other prominent Indians, Chadha’s 2010 Asian Games teammate, Rashid Khan, shot a round of 67, while former champion SSP Chowrasia, Anirban Lahiri, Challenge Tour champion Gaganjeet Bhullar and Ashok Kumar each carded rounds of 68, with Rahil Gangjee and four-time European Tour champion Jeev Milkha Singh both signing for rounds of 69.