The opening day of the Hero Indian Open 2017 didn’t go as per script for the 41 Indians in the field. While Italian Matteo Manassero emerged clubhouse leader at four-under-68 on the weather-interrupted opening day, Shubhankar Sharma, Rahil Gangjee and amateur Rigel Fernandes, shot scores of even-par-72 to be the highest-placed among the Indians.The threat of lightning led to suspension of play for 90 minutes on Thursdaybetween 1515 hrs and 1645 hrs IST. As a result, only 78 players out of a total of 144 could complete their rounds on Thursday. Englishman David Horsey who could complete only 15 holes on Thursday would challenge for the first round lead come Friday as he was sitting at five-under. The Indian duo of defending champion SSP Chawrasia and Chiragh Kumar were both at one-under through 15 and 11 holes respectively when play was stopped due to fading light. Chawrasia, who struggled with his short putts in round one, made two birdies and a bogey through his 15 holes.
SSP, looking to become the first player to defend the title since Jyoti Randhawa in 2007, said, “It’s a good start as one expects it to be a high-scoring week. I didn’t drop any shots on the front-nine but missed at least four birdie opportunities from close range. The birdie miss from three feet on the eighth was a disappointing one. I feel that is the toughest par-5 hole and a birdie there would’ve really lifted my confidence. “The weather interruption didn’t really bother me. In fact my round took off after the break. I made two eight feet birdie conversions on the 12th and 15th after play resumed.
“An under-par opening round would give me a good platform to build on so that will be the focus when I resume the first round tomorrow.”
Chiragh Kumar, a former Asian Tour winner mixed three birdies with two bogeys on the 11 holes that he played on Thursday. Shubhankar Sharma, who was down with high fever till as late as Monday, carded a solid 72 on day one at his home course by capitalizing on his local knowledge. Shubhankar, a 10th tee starter, was two-over through his first 16 holes, but managed to end the round with a flourish as he birdied the last two holes. Sharma, who made three birdies and three bogeys in round one, said, “I’m quite happy with today’s effort considering I lost a few days of practice in the lead up to the tournament due to illness. I had high fever till Monday which hampered my preparations for the week.
“Importantly, my birdies on the eighth and ninth, came as a result of some brilliant recoveries. I was in trouble on both occasions having hit poor tee shots. But good second shots followed up by 15 feet birdie conversions on both holes helped me close the round on a high. “It’ll not be easy to negotiate the greens here as it’s tough to hit it close to the pins. That’s the biggest challenge at this course. “However, I feel I have a slight advantage over the others since this is my home course. I’ve played on this newly-designed course many times. These are not alien conditions for me. “I’m also coming into this week with loads of confidence having already posted three top-10s in the Asian Tour season. A top finish this week will really set up the season for me.” Rahil Gangjee, another former Asian Tour winner, came up with five birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey during his 72 on day one. Among the other prominent Indian names, who completed their rounds on Thursday, were Shiv Kapur (73), Rashid Khan (73), Gaganjeet Bhullar (74), Arjun Atwal (74), Anirban Lahiri (76) and Jeev Milkha Singh (85). India’s premier golfer Anirban Lahiri, the 2015 champion, had a forgettable start to the week as he returned a four-over-76 which featured five birdies, four bogeys, a double-bogey and a triple-bogey. Lahiri said, “I’m quite disappointed actually. I was playing well at the start but a couple of times just waiting on hitting my shot threw me off my rhythm. One instance was on the 18th when I stood on the tee for a long time and couldn’t make up my mind whether to draw or cut the ball. I ended up making a bad swing there. That led to a double-bogey. “After the 18th, I just couldn’t find my rhythm. But I feel I’ve got enough in me to fight back. I’ll have to play error-free as there were a lot of errors today around the greens and off the tee.”