Aman Raj got off to a great start at the Duncan Taylor Black Bull Challenge with 5-under 67 to be tied third with another Indian M. Dharma, as the European Challenge Tour made its return to India after 10 years.
Aman Raj and Dharma were four shots behind the leader, Spaniard Manuel Elvira, who set a course record-setting 9-under 63 and was four shots ahead of the Indian duo, while Oliver Farr of Wales carded a bogey-free 8-under 64 to be second.
Aman Raj and Dharma were in a group of nine players at tied third. The seven players other than the Indian duo, include four-time DP World Tour winner Matteo Manassero, Englishmen Steven Brown and Ashley Chesters, Swedes Joel Sjoholm and Henric Sturehed, Italian Stefano Mazzoli and Germany’s Velten Meyer.
The Indian players looking at getting into the DP World Tour through the PGTI Order of Merit or European Challenge Tour had five more Indians in the crowded Tied-12th place. The five were Aryan Roopa Anand, Angad Cheema, Sunhit Bishnoi, Aadil Bedi and R Marimuthu, who all scored 4-under 68 each.
The KGA course yielded a lot of good scores with 85 players shooting under par, the PGTI informed in a release on Thursday.
Aman Raj bogeyed his first hole, the tenth. He made no more mistakes as he picked six birdies on the 13th, 16th, first, third, fifth and eighth holes. His compatriot, Dharma, had seven birdies against two bogeys.
Aman Raj, fresh from a win on the PGTI earlier this month and currently second on the PGTI’s money list, endured a tough start after a bogey on the first hole as he came back strongly with six birdies thereafter.
Aman said, “I had a testing time on my opening hole, the 10th. But managed a good 30-foot bogey conversion there despite finding the hazard. That gave me a lot of confidence. After the birdie on the 13th, I felt I was swinging it better and from the 14th onwards I felt in control finding all fairways and greens.
“I know my game is in good shape after my recent win so I just need to be patient. Once the putts start rolling in here, it’s a course where one can go deep.”
Elvira, who already has two Top-10 finishes on the Challenge Tour this season, both in South Africa, began with four birdies on the back nine as he teed off from the tenth. His lone blemish was a bogey on Par-4 17th as he turned in 3-under. On the back nine, he birdied six times and had no bogeys.