Chandigarh duo Ajeetesh Sandhu and Harendra Gupta, along with Delhi’s Honey Baisoya, were tied for the lead with six-under-66 in the first round of the Delhi-NCR Open golf championship here on Tuesday.

Delhi-based Rashid Khan, currently the highest-ranked Indian in the world at 311, and Bengaluru’s Trishul Chinnappa occupied tied fourth place, one behind the leaders, at five-under-67 at the Golden Greens Golf Club.

Asian Tour winner Sandhu began the day with birdies on the first two holes, including a 15-feet conversion on his opening 10th hole. Another 15-feet birdie conversion followed on the 16th for Sandhu. He was a promising four-under at the turn, having drained a birdie on the 17th too. However, on the front-nine, he missed a few scoring opportunities on the greens and managed just two more birdies.

“I had a great start today as the birdies on the first two holes really got me going. But a few missed chances on the greens slowed down my progress after the turn. Nonetheless, I’m happy to have kept the errors out. I used my 5-wood to great effect today. It’s a club that I’ve always favoured and been comfortable with. I feel I have more control over it in contrast to a Rescue,” said Sandhu.

“I struggled for some time after the lockdown last year. I even missed the cut at the TATA Steel Tour Championship in December. But my game kept getting better with each passing event I played. I feel I’m getting back into the groove now. I had a couple of top-20s in the two events in Ahmedabad last month but my game was still much better than those two results suggest,” he said. “I really like the design and the layout of Golden Greens. The tee shots here can be quite a test.”

Harendra Gupta came up with a consistent putting performance to pick up seven birdies at the cost of a lone bogey on Tuesday. Gupta, a five-time winner on the PGTI, also struck his approach shots well to set up a number of birdies within four to eight feet.

“My short-game had always been my strength. But I’ve been struggling with it since last season, especially my putting. The last two events I played, I struck the ball really well but it didn’t show in my results as my putting let me down,” he said.

“However, today was a good day with the putter despite the greens being quite testing here. I made a few good four to eight feet putts and also drained an 18-footer. So, with my putting showing some spark today, I’m hoping I can have a good week.”

Honey Baisoya, the winner of the Delhi-NCR Open’s inaugural edition in 2018, had a slow start since he sank his first birdie of the day on the eighth. However, his four straight birdies from the eighth to the 11th brought him within sight of the lead. A minor blip followed on the 12th where he dropped a shot but he came back stronger with three birdies on the last five holes, including two on the closing stretch of 17th and 18th.

Rashid Khan mixed an eagle and four birdies with a bogey for his 67. Trishul Chinnappa, who too fired a 67, had an identical card.

The seasoned Gaurav Ghei of Delhi and Gurugram-based youngster Veer Ahlawat were tied for sixth at 68.

Bengaluru’s Chikkarangappa was tied 12th at 70 while PGTI Order of Merit leader Karandeep Kochhar of Chandigarh, Kolkata’s Rahil Gangjee, and Pune-based Udayan Mane were all in tied 22nd place with matching scores of 71.

–IANS

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