Kolkata, Dec 22 (IANS) Thailand's Pariya Junhasavasdikul seized the round one lead at the McLeod Russel Tour Championship golf, courtesy a masterly six-under-66 here on Thursday.
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 ranking title.
Amardip Sinh Malik of Noida, playing through pain due to a dislocated finger, fired a hole-in-one on the second that propelled him to tied third place at four-under-68 along with Chandigarh's Ranjit Singh.
Veteran 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.
Two-time Asian Tour winner Pariya enjoyed himself in his very first competitive round. 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 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.
"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 capitalise 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," Pariya, the leading foreign player in the field, said after his round.
Khalin ignited his 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.
Khalin is currently in third place in the contest for the ranking title and trails leader Shubhankar Sharma by less than Rs.5 lakh in prize money.
Ranjit Singh joined Amardip in third place. He produced an eagle on the 15th hole from 25 feet.
Jeev 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," Jeev said.
Delhi's Honey Baisoya, currently fifth in the 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, Shubhankar, 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.