New Delhi, Dec 1 (IANS) Seasoned Indian golfer Jyoti Randhawa fired three closing birdies for an opening five-under-par 67, grabbing a share of the lead with countryman Mukesh Kumar at the weather-disrupted Panasonic Open India at the Delhi Golf Club (DGC) here on Thursday.
The leading duo holds a three-shot advantage in the $400,000 Asian Tour event after the opening round was delayed by thick fog for four hours in the morning and was later forced to end early due to fading light.
Thailand's Sutijet Kooratanapisan signed for a 70 to sit in third place alongside a host of players, who will be amongst the 60 players set to return to the venerable DGC at 7a.m. on Friday morning to complete their opening rounds.
Defending champion Chiragh Kumar returned with a 71 to stay four shots off the pace in the tournament, which is celebrating its sixth consecutive edition on the Asian Tour this week.
Randhawa, Asia's number one in 2002, continued his recent run of fine form for a solid start at the DGC, a venue where he had won four Asian Tour titles previously.
"This is one of my favourite golf courses. I have a lot of good memories. I felt good coming back here again. I had a good finish to the round which was great," the ace golfer told reporters after his first round outing.
"The game has been feeling good. I have been playing a lot recently. I think that got me the good form".
After turning in 35, Randhawa sank two birdies against a bogey before blasting three straight birdies from 16 for a back-nine 32.
"I holed a long putt from 30-feet on 16 and chip-in from greenside on 17 before sinking a two-footer birdie putt on last. I hit the ball really good," said the 44-year-old, who enjoyed a top-five finish in the Philippines last month.
"I had a two-hour sleep during the fog delay and I went for a massage. It didn't really affect me much. I felt fresh when I started the round," added the eight-time Asian Tour winner.
Kumar, a local veteran who has won over 120 professional titles in his career, took advantage of his course knowledge for his fine start.
"I was hitting it close on the back-nine and on the front-nine I managed to sink three long putts from 10 to 15 feet. I also made a good recovery from the bushes on the sixth where I drained a 15-footer for bogey," said the 51-year-old Indian, who traded seven birdies against two bogeys.
"I believe my judgement on this course, having played here for so many years. My course knowledge worked to my advantage today. I won an event here over a decade back. The course is definitely playing longer than usual this time but you had to adapt accordingly," Kumar added.
Title-holder Chiragh endured a frustrating day in office but took pride in his battling performance where he sank three birdies against two bogeys.
"It was a frustrating day. I wasn't hitting the ball particularly well but having said that, I am happy to return with a 71. I managed to grind it out so it is not too bad a score. The course is playing tough. It's tough to make putts out there," the 32-year-old said.
"I want to have a good night's rest tonight. We will see how it goes tomorrow. It's going to be another long day again. Hopefully I can make more putts," Chiragh added.