New Delhi, 17 March: Bangladesh's Siddikur Rahman,fired a bogey-free seven-under 65 to take a two-shot lead after the first round of the USD 750,000 The DGC Open presented by Mastercard at the Delhi Golf Club, here on Thrusday.
Siddikur was trailed by a trio that included two-time Asian Tour winner and local favourite Rashid Khan, the defending champion Nitithorn Thippong and Filipino Justin Quiban, who all shot 67 each. Like Siddikur, Rashid’s effort was also bogey-free.
Familiarity with the DGC as a venue was the common thread between the top four, as three of them had won their maiden Asian Tour title at this venue.
Siddikur, Rashid and Nitithorn have won twice each on the Asian Tour and one of those wins has come at this venue for all three. Quiban is yet to win on the Asian tour, but his career-best finish was at this venue at the 2022 edition of The DGC Open last year.
Siddikur won the Hero Indian Open at this venue in 2013, while Rashid Khan won the SAIL-SBI Open at DGC where incidentally Siddikur was the runner-up. Though Siddikur and Rashid won on the old layout but showed that they are quite at home with the re-design done of the fabled Lodhi Course by Gary Player.
Nitithorn won last year on the new layout and Quiban logged a fifth place, one of his two Top-10s on the Asian Tour.
On a low-scoring day, six players were tied for the fifth place with 68 each. The group included another Indian S Chikkarangappa, who was tied sixth last week in Thailand. The bunch also included Varun Chopra, an Indian-born, who has now migrated to the US but plays on the Indian Tour.
Siddikur, who had birdies on the first and eighth turned in two-under and then exploded on the back nine with five birdies in the last seven holes. “I love the Delhi Golf Club course and I have always enjoyed playing here with some good results including a win. So, it was a wonderful day. I'm hitting really well and at the same time I am putting well.”
He added, “I have been working on my technique, my fitness, my mental training. At the new course, the layout is the same but the all greens are a little different. But I think I like these greens more than before.”
Rashid who started on the tenth and had nine pars to begin, said, “It wasn’t great, the way I started the round. I have been working on some things.”
He went on, “I had a back injury around November and after that I lost my touch so I was really scared to hit shots because of my back. I had to change my swing a little and it was all handy. Right now also it's there but I'm working on something which I really wanted and Ashok Kumar (another Indian pro) showed me the path.”
On his second nine, he had five birdies. Talking about his tentativeness over last few months, he added, “I was in that situation in the first nine holes, but I managed it very well. On the back nine, I had a good birdie on the first and then finishing with the last three birdies was great. You know that gives you confidence and that's what I needed.”
I had a back injury in November or something and after that I lost my touch so I was really scared to hit shots because of my back. I had to change my swing a little and it was all handy. Getting out of the golf course without making any bogey means a lot. I don't mind having three birdies and 15 pars any day. I mean that's something which gives you confidence. " he added
Nitithorn, looking to retain the Lal Bangla Trophy, said, “I struggled a bit on my approach shot midway through the round, but I managed.”
Indian-American, Varun Chopra, who had a bogey start finally finished 4-under. He said, “I got off to a bogey on the first hole at the 10. And honestly, I rebounded really well on that nine with six birdies in the next eight holes, so that was awesome.”
Four players including Indian amateur Yuvraj Singh were tied for 11th at 3-under. Overall, 40 players shot under par scores and another 16 players, including SSP Chawrasia, who has won three Asian Tour titles at the DGC, shot even par 72 each to be tied 41st.
Holding their own in what is being reckoned as one of the strongest fields at an Asian Tour event in India were two amateurs, Yuvraj Singh of Kapurthala and DGC 's Pratap Atwal.
While Yuvraj was in a three-way tie for 11th place on three-under 69 with six birdies and three bogeys, Atwal was a shot behind in shared 15th on a solid 70 that included five birdies against three dropped shots.
A third amateur, Shaurya Bhattacharya was in a share of 24th on a one-under 71.
Mhow golfer Om Prakash Chouhan was tied 11th on 69 with four birdies and one bogey while Veer Ahlawat and Ranjit Singh were tied for 15th on two-under 70s. “
Karandeep Kochhar, Honey Baisoya, Abhijit Chadha, Sachin Baisoya and Aryan Roopa Anand were in the 17-strong group bunched in tied 24th place.
Six others – Shiv Shankar Prasad Chawrasia, DGC pro Shamim Khan, Abhinav Lohan, Yashas Chandra, Angad Cheema and Akshay Sharma – were on level par 72 and tied for 41st place.
Photo Courtesy: Asian Tour