Tour Report: After 18 holes at the McLeod Russel Tour Championship
Kolkata, December 22, 2016: Thailand’s Pariya Junhasavasdikul seized the round one lead at the McLeod Russel Tour Championship 2016, courtesy a masterly six-under-66.
Pariya, playing on a sponsor invite and making his debut at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC), was one shot ahead of second-placed, Khalin Joshi of Bengaluru, who is a major contender for the Rolex rankings title.
Amardip Sinh Malik of Noida, playing through pain due to a dislocated finger, made a spectacular hole-in-one on the second that propelled him to tied third place at four-under-68 along with Chandigarh’s Ranjit Singh.
Superstar Jeev Milkha Singh, playing in the marquee group of the day alongside the other two biggest names in the field, Arjun Atwal and Jyoti Randhawa, was also off to a solid start as he posted a three-under-69 to be tied fifth after 18 holes.
Two-time Asian Tour winner, Pariya Junhasavasdikul enjoyed himself in his very first competitive round at the historic RCGC on Thursday. The 32-year-old from Bangkok, who began the tournament with a birdie on the first, was aided by a hot putter as he made an eagle and three birdie conversions from a range of 10 to 15 feet.
The articulate Thai conceded his only shot of the day after missing out on an up and down from the bunker on the 13th. He finally closed the day on a positive note by picking up a stroke on the 18th after landing his approach within a foot.
Pariya, the leading foreign player in the field, said, “I’m quite happy with this start as I’m playing on this course for the first time. I found most fairways and my short-game bailed me out whenever I missed the greens.
“One needs to capitalize on the two par-5s here as they provide scoring opportunities. I eagled one of them but had to be content with a par on the other. One requires a good game-plan on this course and the key is to place the ball well for the approach shot. You have to create maximum birdie opportunities.”
Khalin Joshi ignited his Rolex Ranking title campaign once again with a bogey-free 67 in round one. The highlight of his round was the recovery from the rough on the ninth where his approach landed within three feet of the pin to set up a birdie.
Joshi is currently in third place in the Rolex Ranking and trails the leader Shubhankar Sharma by less than Rs. 5 lakhs in prize money. A win this week would assure him of the Rolex Player of the Year title.
Khalin said in a post - round interview, "I had a bogey - free round today with birdies on the 2nd, 4th, 9th, 13th and 15th holes. The course is in beautiful condition with the greens rolling very true and fast. The fairways are excellent too and the course makes for a great week of Golf.
“It is important to play for position off the tees as the rough is quite penalising. I will automatically get more birdie looks if I can keep it on the short grass off the tee.
To win this week, you will have to play cosistent Golf and hole a lot of putts. This event being the flagship event of the PGTI, it is a great setting and a great feeling to be a part of the best field that has ever been assembled at an event in India. It is on par with a PGA Tour event and is marvellous for Indian Golf.”
Amardip Sinh Malik, playing with a dislocated little finger in his right hand, put up a gallant show with a 68 which featured a hole-in-one on the second. Malik, a winner on the PGTI in 2014, began the week with a bogey on the first but then fired an ace on the next as his seven-iron tee shot found the hole after the second bounce.
Malik said, “It’s my first hole-in-one since I started playing golf 16 years back. I really couldn’t believe it at first. I felt good about my hitting from there on and carried forward the momentum. The finger pains every time I hit a shot so this round and the hole-in-one are all the more special.”
Ranjit Singh joined Amardip in third place. He produced an eagle on the 15th from 25 feet.
Jeev Milkha Singh fared the best among India’s international stars with six birdies and three bogeys.
“I’m happy with the first round. I sank just one long putt today, a 15-footer on the eighth. The rest were all within 10 feet. I didn’t hit the driver well and as a result switched to the 3-wood which got me better results. I was disappointed with the bogey on the last hole where I couldn’t pull off a low cut shot.
“I had great fun playing with my good friends Arjun (Atwal) and Jyoti (Randhawa). We were joking, laughing and encouraging each other throughout,” said Jeev.
Delhi’s Honey Baisoya, currently fifth in the Rolex Ranking, shared fifth place with Jeev on day one.
The eight golfers bunched together in tied seventh at two-under-70 were Jyoti Randhawa, SSP Chawrasia, Shamim Khan, Rolex rankings leader Shubhankar Sharma, Rashid Khan, Mukesh Kumar, Bangladesh’s Md Zamal Hossain Mollah and Sanjeev Kumar.
Gaganjeet Bhullar and Shiv Kapur were a further shot back in tied 15th while Arjun Atwal was tied 26th at one-over-73.
Defending champion Chikkarangappa of Bengaluru was in tied 33rd place after his opening round of 74.
Pariya: Eye-opening experience playing on the PGTI
The leader Pariya was all praise for his first experience of playing on the PGTI. He earmarked Rashid Khan as the man to watch out for in the future.
Pariya said, “This tournament provides me a wonderful opportunity to come and see what the PGTI is all about. While playing on the Asian Tour I’ve seen a lot of good Indian players come up each year, so I thought there must be a good golfing structure in place here. So I decided to come here and find out. It’s been eye-opening so far. The tour has a lot of quality players with lot of potential.
“I think Rashid Khan in particular has a great future. He has the touch, the accuracy and the distance to go with it. With more experience, he’ll be right up there.”Published 22 Dec 2016, 20:51 IST