Tour Report: Asian Tour players Chikkarangappa and Chiragh Kumar set the early pace in Kolkata after Round 1
The challenging layout of Royal Calcutta Golf Club lived up to its billing on a blustery day where players found it tough to shoot low numbers. Day 1 belonged to Asian Tour players Chikka and Chiragh as they put together solid back nines to post scores of four-under-68.
Chikka, a former winner on this course at the 2015 Mcleod Russel Tour Championship, which also secured the order of merit crown for him that year, started hot out of the gates but saw himself fall back with four bogeys on the bounce. He then steadied the ship with a few pars before closing out on a high with an eagle and two birdies in his final four holes to come in as the tied first round leader.
Chikkarangappa said, “I started well today, birdied 1st, 2nd and 4th to sit at -3 after 4 holes. Following that I had a bad stretch on 5, 6, 7 and 8. I tried to calm myself down after finding myself at 1 over after 9 holes. I kept telling myself there’s a lot of golf to be played and then I bounced back well with a birdie on No. 12. Bogeyed 14 and then made a solid eagle on 15 before closing out with birdies on 17 and 18. Overall, a few mistakes cost me in between but I’ll take today’s score and move on.
“Conditions were tough today, afternoon was blustery and as a result a whole lot of golfers struggled today. But the golf course is in great condition, if you’re able to hole a few putts out there then there can be low numbers but again, the golf course is not playing easy at all.
“It’s great to have more events of this great nature and playing at RCGC is always a joy. Playing at great golf courses like this where sponsors are coming and chipping in to grow the tour also gives us a boost. It’s solid for the PGTI.
“DLF last week was very different from the course here, as you saw only 3 or 4 guys finished under par. But yeah, I was really happy to see SSP win, this golf course is so flat compared to DLF and every green looks so flat even though they aren’t the flattest. Overall, it was a good learning experience last week.
“The course is in great shape and I’ve seen the course in as bad a condition as it could be but over the last three years, this course according to me is no. 1 in India. Whenever there is an event here, I love coming back to play these amazing greens and fairways.
“The design is amazing, good shots are rewarded and you pay the price for bad shots. The field is super strong this week; SSP who is coming off a win at the Indian Open is the man to look out for and a win here would be special for me against this star-studded field.
“It’s great to be part of a strong field this week here at RCGC. All of us who are off from the Asian Tour this week wanted to come back and play on our home tour where our careers started. SSP, myself and Rashid are here to help our tour this week and it’s always a pleasure to play on a golf course like this.
“It’s anybody’s game right now and one has to play their best golf out there to get it done. So, I’ll have to produce my best golf and if I do that, I think I should be fine. The expectations are high this week since I haven’t had the best of starts to the season and I’m looking forward to a strong performance as it will push me on for the rest of the season
“My putting has been off for a couple of months, and today I putted well. I have changed a few putters over the course of the last year but now I have gone back to the one I had before all these changes for the last twelve years and the feel is slowly coming back.
“I will play my game and stay calm. I will try to not make the mistakes that I made in the middle of my round today and if I do that there shouldn’t be a problem.
“Right now, I’m only focussed on the Asian tour and I get to play a couple of European tour events also. So, I have a busy summer ahead and I’m going to try and improve my order of merit ranking from last year.
“I haven’t had a great start to the year with four missed cuts in a row. Like I said, the putting was off but then I started the Indian Open with my old trusty putter and a different frame of mind. I learnt a lot last week and did decently well.
“I’m looking forward to a good finish this week as I’m feeling confident about my game. After this week, I have two weeks off and I will see my coach to fine tune things that have been going wrong off late. So yeah, I’m feeling good and I’ve been knocking on the door for a win on the Asian tour, so I’m looking forward to ticking that off and probably this will be the season where I’ll finally get that win.”
Chiragh Kumar kept up the momentum that he built at the Indian Open last week with a top-25 finish at the treacherous layout of DLF Golf & Country Club. He, like Chikka, also found himself sitting at 1-over at the turn but then got going with a long-range birdie putt on the 10th. After that, the flood gates opened and he brought it home in style, recording an eagle and three birdies to finish at 4 under par – 68.
Chiragh Kumar, who also has a PGTI Order of merit title to his name, said “I had a frustrating start with a 3 putt bogey on the 2nd from 10-12 feet. I was a little unsure about the greens as I didn’t play a practice round prior to the start and got in late last night. Initially, I struggled to make any putts on the front nine and luckily enough, I figured out the greens on the back nine. To come out with a 5 under back nine, I consider myself pretty fortunate and I’m quite happy.
“It’s ony the first day so I just want to enjoy the rest of the week and try and play my best. Can’t really think about the outcome of the tournament and have to play one day at a time. In golf, you seldom win and for me, as long as I’m out there giving my best then I’m fine.
“The course is fantastic, I’m really happy that I came here as I didn’t expect the course to be in such great nick to be honest but it’s absolutely fantastic.
“DLF is a very tough test of golf so this course feels easier here. It was a frustrating week at DLF in the sense that the scores were high but I did well and gave it my best.
“It’s a great field this week and it’s particularly great for Indian golf. It encourages the guys to play better and buck up their games to keep up with the increased competition.
“Just trying to stay patient and play my game for the rest of the week will be the game – plan. It’s going to be a great final to rounds and I’ll play my own game and wait and see what happens. I want to give it my best and I’ll be satisfied if I do that.
“It’s been a pretty good start to the year with consistent performances. I finished fourth in Bangladesh for the Asian tour event and that boosted my confidence a lot. I was struggling a bit with two missed cuts at the start but I followed with four good performances at events with strong fields. I’m happy with those performances in Malaysia, Perth and then Delhi given that they were big events and on tough golf courses.
“I have a full card on the Asian tour and I don’t think I will be playing much at home going forward this season. I have a couple of weeks off after this and then I’ll be playing in Cochin before I head back on to the Asian tour. I will play a little bit in the second half off the season but mostly on the Asian tour over the summer.
“It will be a busy rest of the year. I have couple of weeks off after this event like I said and then I’ll play in Japan and Taiwan. Then, we slow down a little bit, like the Indian tour, on the Asian Tour from end of May onwards but there is a possibility of playing an odd even here or there. I’m really looking forward to my off-season because starting August, it’s going to get really busy until the end of the year. I’ve always loved playing in a lot of tournaments and I love travelling.
“So yeah, I’m looking forward to playing as well as enjoying my down time and spending some time with the family. I’ll be trying to improve my game and better my best finish of 14th on the Asian tour Order of Merit. Also, I hope I can play well in the European tour events whenever I get the opportunities.”
The local home favourite and tournament favourite, SSP Chowrasia didn’t dissapoint and put on a good show to finish at 1 under par for round 1. Coming off arguably the biggest win of his career and a whirlwind two weeks, he made three birdies against two bogeys to find himself only 3 shots off the boil with a lot of golf still to be played.
SSP Chowrasia said, “An under-par round here at RCGC is always a good start. There’s a lot of golf yet to be played this week and being three off the lead in round one is not too bad.
“I feel the one week break from golf after the Indian Open has done me a lot of good. It was necessary for me to recharge my battery, so that I could get rid of the physical and mental fatigue after such a demanding week at the DLF Golf & Country Club. I feel, I’m now back in the competitive zone.”
The Mhow-based duo of Mukesh Kumar and Om Prakash Chouhan, Chandigarh’s Feroz Singh Garewal and Delhi’s Ikramuddin Shah all sat in tied third at three-under-69.
However, Kolkata based rookie Viraj Madapp had an indifferent start to the week as he shot a 7 over par – 79 to occupy tied - 101st position.