Italy’s Matteo Manassero overcame a disastrous start by shooting a four-under-par 68 to seize the first round clubhouse lead at the weather-disrupted Hero Indian Open 2017 on Thursday. David Horsey, playing alongside defending champion SSP Chawrasia was five-under through 15 holes and will complete his first round in the morning.
Two 19-year-old Indians, one an amateur and the another a rising professional, gave the Indians fans something to cheer about on a tough opening day.
Rigel Fernandes, an amateur, who flew in from the United States, and the teen professional, Shubhankar Sharma, who has been recovering from illness, were among the leading Indian scorers, who had finished their first round at the Hero Indian Open 2017, as both returned even par. Even par was the best among those who had finished their first 18 holes and that was also the card for Rahil Gangjee.
The best Indian scores belonged to SSP Chawrasia, one-under through 15 holes and Chiragh Kumar, one-under through 10 holes, but they will need to come back in the morning to complete their first round.
The 23-year-old Manassero, who is a four-time winner on the European Tour, double bogeyed his opening hole on 10 at the DLF Golf and Country Club’s Gary Player course but fought back superbly with seven birdies against another bogey to seize the early initiative in the US$1.75 million tournament tri-sanctioned by the Asian Tour, European Tour and Indian Golf Union.
A total of 66 players will return to the course at 7am, Friday to conclude their second rounds following a 90-minute suspension in the afternoon due to the threat of lightning. Amongst them is England’s David Horsey, who stood at five-under through 15 holes and was bogey-free.
Shubhankar, who has had a great start on Asian Tour this season with three Top-10s besides a T-11, closed birdie-birdie for a 72 after starting on the tenth.
Fernandes, who represented India at the Asian Amateurs was very excited about playing at the Hero Indian Open 2017. He had a double-bogey start after hitting his first shot out of bounds. But he bounced back from a two-over front nine with four birdies in last holes.
Shubhankar 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. Also, 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.”
“I feel I have a slight advantage over the others since this is my home course. I’ve played this newly-designed course many times. These are not alien conditions for me”, he added.
Fernandes was ecstatic about his first round. He said, “It was a solid start for me. I hit my first shot of the day out of bounds but recovered nicely. I birdied three of my last four holes today so finished nicely. Hopefully some momentum going into tomorrow..”
Talking of this course, Fernandes, whose father has been walking with him, said, “The course from tee to green is pretty nice. The putting surfaces are a little extreme so you just have to be in the right parts. I have not played anything like this ever.”
Malaysia’s Danny Chia and Angelo Que of the Philippines battled to shoot matching 70s to stay within striking reach of Manassero but early favourite Anirban Lahiri of India, the Asian Tour number one in 2015, required two closing birdies to salvage a 76.
The ultra-challenging DLF course bared its fangs with some holes seeing scores as high as a 12 and a couple of 10s but Manassero, chasing his first win in nearly four years, stayed mostly out of trouble after his opening hole blemish.
The 44-year-old Chia, a double Asian Tour winner, enjoyed a flying start with three opening birdies before going on to pick up more shots on the 14th, second and sixth holes. He dropped a bogey on four and a double bogey on five after finding water with his tee shot, which plays onto an island green.