By: Pramod Thomas
A six-under 66 kept Honey Baisoya in top position for most of the day but Germany’s Yannik Paul went on a late birdie-spree to turn in a sizzling 65 and grab a one-shot lead on the opening day of the Hero Indian Open on Gurugram on Thursday (23).
The 26-year-old Indian sank as many as eight birdies against a double bogey to lead the field for most part of the day but Paul slammed four birdies on the toughest final stretch from 15 to 18 at the DLF golf course to emerge as clubhouse leader.
Finnish golfer Mikko Korhonen was sole third after carding a five-under 67.
“I made some really good putts today. The highlight of the day would be on the 16th hole where I hit my ball to the left where it hit a tree and came back about 30 yards. And I got about 40 yards to the flag, made the chip and putt,” said the Delhi golfer, who has won seven PGTI titles.
“This course is a monster so you have to stay focused. I made a mistake at the 14th so I know if you can score low rounds in first two days then it sets you up as you know what speed you should play and what should be the target. You don’t try to do anything extra and make you more calm.”
While Honey was the best-placed Indian in second position, two-time DP World (European Tour) winner Shubhankar Sharma and Angad Cheema produced matching four-under 68 to be tied fourth.
Fellow Indians M Dharma and Manu Gandas scored 70 each to share the eighth place. Yuvraj Sandhu was also two-under through 17 holes. He was one of the seven players who couldn’t complete the opening round due to fading light.
Other prominent Indians in the fray, Shiv Kapur (75), SSP Chawrasia (75), Gaganjeet Bhullar (75), Jyoti Randhawa (76), Rashid Khan (76), Karandeep Kochhar (77) had a difficult day at the Gary Player-designed layout.
Top international players Pablo Larrazabal (72), Thorbjorn Olesen (73), Nicolai Hojgaard (75), Robert Macintyre (74), Edoardo Molinari (74), Thomas Bjorn (74), Japan’s Kazuki Higa (75), defending champion Stephen Gallacher (77), Guido Migliozzi (79) also struggled to tame the tricky DLF course.
There was a lot of talk about the challenging nature of the last three holes but Paul didn’t show any signs of discomfort as he blasted four birdies from 15 to 18 to zoom ahead.
Paul, who had finished runners-up in Thailand Classic last week, was off the block with a bogey picked up shots at the 2nd, 9th, 10th and 13th holes.
“I knew it’s a challenging course. And I just tried to focus on one shot at a time. I had a great finish. I think four birdies, the last four, that really helps. So, tomorrow’s a new day, just focus on what I can control and see where you end up,” said the Mallorca Golf Open winner.
Talking about his birdie run in the final stretch, the 28-year-old said: “If you’re in the fairway, then you have a lot of chances. Front line, you had a little more drivers off the tee. So I think off the tee, it’s a bit more challenging on the front nine.
“But yeah, the look, it’s more intimidating on the back nine off the tee, just the looks, but you actually have a little more room in some spots.
“It’s obviously a tricky course. Every shot you have to be 100 per cent committed and 100 per cent focused. I was trying to stay focussed on my process and then kind of see where I end up on Sunday.”