Jeev Milkha Singh and Rashid Khan spearheaded the home challenge with a four-under 68 each which placed them two shots behind the leader Robert-Jan Derksen of the Netherlands on the opening day of the weather-hit Avantha Masters golf on Thursday.
Online PR News – 17-February-2011 – – Dutchman Derksen leads; Jeev and Rashid shoot 68, two behind leader
GURGAON, India, February 17: Jeev Milkha Singh and Rashid Khan spearheaded the home challenge with a four-under 68 each which placed them two shots behind the leader Robert-Jan Derksen of the Netherlands on the opening day of the weather-hit Avantha Masters golf on Thursday.
Derksen posted an opening six-under-par 66 to take the clubhouse lead at the €1.8 million (approximately US$2.3 million) Avantha Masters, jointly sanctioned by Asian, European and Aircel Indian PGTI Tours.
Play was delayed by three and a half hours after the DLF Golf and Country was shrouded in heavy fog in the morning. A total of 66 players have yet to complete the first round and will resume at 7.15am local time tomorrow.
Derksen enjoyed a bogey-free 66 and he led by one shot from England’s Mark Foster and Argentina’s Julio Zapata who carded for matching 67s. Australia’s Darren Beck is lying in second place on five-under-par through 13 holes.
Bunched with Jeev and Rashid Khan was three-time Asian Tour winner Chapchai Nirat of Thailand at 68. Austrian Bernd Wiesberger, last year’s runner-up England’s Richard Finch and Fabrizio Zanotti of Paraguay also shot 68 each.
While Derksen led the field, another Dutchman Maarten Lafeber had a hole in one at the par three 11th to win a Volvo XC 60 for his ace. He had four bogeys on the front nine and was six-under after 11, but three bogeys in next seven holes saw him end at 69 in tied 11th with seven others, including India’s Sujjan Singh.
The 37-year-old Derksen told the media know, “I’ve got a bet with my caddie that if we win this week we’ll take the trophy to the Taj Mahal but I need to win first of course,” said the 37 year old. “I’ve never been and I think this is a great occasion to make that happen.”
Crowd favourite Jeev Milkha Singh opened his campaign remarkably despite still nursing a back injury and being impeded with a two-shot penalty for infringing a local rule on the par-four 13th. The 39-year-old Indian got off well with a birdie on the par-three 11th but got into trouble on the 13th hole. He had another double bogey on 15th.
But he also had six birdies and brilliant eagle from a 45-footer on the closing ninth for a 68.
“I started off well with a 30 feet birdie putt on the 11th. I then ran into some trouble on the 13th where my drive hit the floodlight tower. I should’ve replayed that stroke as per the local rules but having overlooked that particular clause in the local rules, I went on to play my second shot from the spot where the ball had landed after rebounding off the pole. That error cost me a two-stroke penalty,” said Jeev of his costly mistake, which eventually resulted in a double bogey.
“The two-stroke penalty acted as a trigger for me to raise my game. At that point I decided to focus really hard and make the most of my opportunities. I hit it really well from there on. I closed the round on a high as I converted a monstrous 45 feet eagle putt on the ninth,” added Singh, who stormed home impressively with three birdies and an eagle-three on the closing ninth hole.
Rashid Khan, who is playing in his third international event and only his fifth event since turning professional last October, showed that he can match up against the best despite being only 20 years old.
“I only felt nervous when I stepped up to the tee box for my opening shot. Once that got out of the way, I was able to play my normal game and it felt really good,” said Khan member of silver medal winning Indian team at the Asian Games in Guangzhou last year.
Derksen made his move up the leaderboard with three birdies each in his front and back-nine.
Derksen, who teed off in the opening back-nine got his first birdie on hole 12 before adding another two on holes 17 and 18 to reach the turn in 33. He continued to mark his card with furthers birdies on holes three, six and nine to take the early bragging rights.
“It was a long day with the delay this morning but I have to say that it was worth the wait. I played steady, drove it nicely which is very important on this course and the putting was a lot better than what it has been the last few weeks because I have been struggling with that,” said Derksen
Lafeber, who shot a hole-in-one said, “It was 160 metres with the wind coming in a little bit off the right,” said Lafeber. “I hit a punchy, three-quarter six iron. I aimed a little right of the pin to allow the wind to bring it in and hit it perfectly. It was going straight for the flag but we couldn’t tell if it was in or just very close. We were all looking and wondering until the crowd started clapping and jumping around so then we knew that it was in.”