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Pratap Atwal grabs lead with sizzling 65

AGE CORRESPONDENT
Published : Apr 7, 2016, 7:14 am IST
Updated : Apr 7, 2016, 7:14 am IST

Delhi’s Pratap Atwal carded an error-free seven-under 65 to take the opening round lead at the inaugural Pune Open on Tuesday.

Pratap Atwal in action on the  opening day of  the Pune Open.
 Pratap Atwal in action on the opening day of the Pune Open.

Delhi’s Pratap Atwal carded an error-free seven-under 65 to take the opening round lead at the inaugural Pune Open on Tuesday.

Two strokes behind were Chiragh Kumar of Delhi and Kapurthala’s Ashbeer Saini with five-under 67 at the Oxford Golf Resort.

The 24-year-old Pratap, playing his second season as a pro, had a fruitful front nine thanks to three birdies. He accelerated on the back-nine adding four more birdies to his card.

Pratap, who has two top-20s in his five starts this season, made birdies on all the four par-5s and also had two long birdie conversions on the fifth and 15th holes. He established his two stroke lead with a tap-in birdie on the par-3 17th.

“I placed my shots really well today even though I didn’t hole too many putts. I struck my long irons well. I played decent last week in Bangladesh so that gave me a lot of confidence coming here,” said Pratap.

He added, “The gameplan was to hit fairways, not get too aggressive and play to my strength which is hitting long.

“A good first round always sets you up well for the week, so I’m quite pleased with the start.”

Chiragh, a winner on the Asian Tour last year, too had a bogey-free opening round. He left himself two short conversions for birdie and also sank a 25-foot birdie putt on the fifth.

Chiragh said, “I was pretty solid off the tee and hit my irons well. Importantly, I didn’t make any mistakes today. I was a little disappointed that I made birdie on just one of the four par-5s since they provide good scoring opportunities here.

“I’ll just focus on sticking to my game plan in Round 2.”

On the season, he added: “I found my rhythm at the back end of 2015 with a win and a runner-up finish on the Asian Tour. So far 2016 has been up and down with just a couple of decent finishes. I feel I’m playing well at the moment but the results haven’t been there for me. It’s now a matter of trusting my game plan and putting together four good rounds.”

Saini, on the road to recovery from a wrist injury, produced his best round of the season thanks to some brilliant putting to share second place with Chiragh. Saini drained three putts from a range of 15 to 30 feet including a 20-footer for eagle on the closing ninth.

Fourth-placed Gaganjeet Bhullar, playing at the Oxford Golf Resort after five years, had a four-under 68 to show for his opening day effort.

Aditya Bhandarkar was the highest-placed among the Pune-based pros in the field. Bhandarkar fired a 69 to share fifth place with Sri Lankan Anura Rohana, R. Murthy of Bengaluru, Greater Noida’s Mandeo Singh Pathania, Delhi’s Veer Ahlawat and the Chandigarh duo of Gurbaaz Mann and Ranjit Singh.