Home challengers Honey Baisoya, Shubhankar Sharma, and Angad Cheema were among first five on the leaderboard on the opening day of the US$ 2 million Hero Indian Open at the DLF Golf and Country Club on Thursday.
DLF golfer Honey Baisoya held the clubhouse lead for much of the day with a six-under-par 66 before losing it to the late-charging German Yannik Paul (65), who seemed to continue from where he let off last week where he finished second.
Baisoya was closely followed by Shubhankar Sharma and Angad Cheema on 4-under 68 that gave them a share of fourth place.
Veteran M, Dharma and 2022 PGTI Order of Merit topper Manu Gandas, another DLF golfer, shared eighth place on two under 70 along with Yuvraj Singh Sandhu (17 holes), who was among a small group of players who could not complete the first round due to fading light.
Sharma dropped two shots early after starting on the back nine but made up well towards the end of his round with three birdies over his final four holes including a solid recovery on the ninth where he drove the ball wide but chipped on beautifully before converting the opportunity.
“On nine, I actually missed my drive and went almost 50-60 yards left. And then from the rough, I had a good shot to about 20 feet.”
“My putting was quite average to begin with. Like I wasn’t doing anything great, but I wasn’t doing anything bad either. And then on the front nine, which was my closing nine I think I was more focused. I just wanted to shoot a good score. So gave myself a few opportunities.”
“I was quite straight off the tee, on most occasions, except for maybe one place where I went slightly left on hole six, but I managed to make a good up and down there. I think my putting became slightly better on this nine, which helps. It’s a long tournament. So we’ll see what happens.”
Honey Baisoya said playing at the host venue was a big plus for him. “One reason why so many of us (himself, Sharma, Manu Gandas to name a few) are going well today is because we play here a lot. The last time I played was before I left to play outside. That was about a month ago. (When I am in India) I come here every day.”
Angad Cheema, tied fourth alongside Sharma, said later, “I didn’t play well on the back nine. But then got it going on the front nine. I was hitting it close consistently and that helped set up the (five)birdies there.”
Khalin Joshi (18 holes) and Yashas Chandra (17 holes) were level par for the day with Aadil Bedi, Abhijit Singh Chadha, Ajeetesh Sandhu and Veer Ahlawat were all bunched together in tied 34th place on one-over73s.
Shiv Shankar Prasad Chawrasia and Jyoti Randhawa, who have won the Hero Indian Open five times between them were further down the standings, Chawrasia was in tied 60th alongside Gaganjeet Bhullar on three-over 75 and Randhawa one shot behind in tied 78th.
Finland’s Mikko Korhonen was another to make a late run at the top, holding sole third place with a solid five-under 67 that included an eagle three on the Par-5 eighth hole. But it was Paul’s four birdies in his closing four holes that really turned things over at the top.
Paul was thrilled with his play and said, “Obviously, I played well today. I knew it’s a challenging course and I just tried to, you know, focus on one shot at a time,” the 28-year-old said after his round.
“And I had, obviously a great finish. I think four birdies in the last four holes. That helps. So, tomorrow’s a new day, just focus on what I can control and see where you end up.”
Paul was one shy of Shubhankar Sharma’s course record of eight-under 64 and his eagle putt on the closing Par-5 18th hole just slid by the pin. Playing in the group just ahead, 2022 PGTI Order of Merit topper Manu Gandas (70) too narrowly missed adding an eagle to his name on the 18th.
Defending champion Stephen Gallacher of Scotland had a day to forget with a five-over 77 that had a double-bogey and a further four dropped shots against two birdies on a day only the top 33 in the field of 120 were able to finish par or better.
Gavin Green, Pablo Larrazabal and Jazz Janewattananond started their campaign with cautious even par rounds.Thorbjorn Olesen, who came into this week with a win in Thailand last week opened with 1-over 73.