*OP Chauhan

Gurugram, March 29:: Aman Raj, veteran O P Chouhan and Karandeep Kochar saved the hosts blushes by finishing the open round at tied 14 as Joost Luiten of Netherlands, shot 7-under 67 to share the lead with Japan's Nakajima in the Hero Indian Open at the DLF Golf and Country Club here today. 

As top local stars like Lahiri and S.Sharma struggled against the tough field the trio of Raj , Chouhan and Kochar gave the fans some thing to cheer. 

Luiten is a six-time winner on the DP World Tour and  at the end of the first round, among the co-leaders was the  young talent from Japan, Keita Nakajima

Then there was Matteo Manassero from Netherlands, his bogey-free 65 indicated the resurgence continues.

The bunch at 4-under and Tied-14 included three Indians – Aman Raj and Om Prakash Chouhan, who had their best cards at this course, and Karandeep Kochhar, who joined them later.


*Joost Luiten

Luiten said, “I have good memories from last year, I was struggling with my game before that but finished third in Thailand and then third here (at Hero Indian Open). I like this golf course, it’s very demanding and you just have to hit it straight. It’s suits my game, especially today.

Chouhan, who came onto the DP World Tour as the winner of the PGTI Order of merit, said, “The Hero Indian Open is very important to me because if I do well, I will have a good chance to improve my ranking and save my card for the next season.

"So my entire focus is on doing well this time. Tomorrow I'm playing in the morning. There is a difference as in the morning there will not be as much wind as in the afternoons. At the Hero Indian Open at DLF,  I have missed the cut always. Today I was just focussing on my normal game and not play attacking golf.”

Aman Raj, said, "Even if I leave the score aside, I'm just really happy with the way I was playing, some very stable golf. You know, all in all, tee shots were on point, gave myself a lot of chances. 

"To be honest, it was only 50% of them, but you know, I was just very glad that I'm giving myself chances, hitting fairways, putting it on the green, giving myself those 15-20 footers and making the up and downs for par as well.”

Shubhankar Sharma, the top-ranked Indian began with a bogey, but braving a cold and slight body ache, he finished 2-under 70 and was T-34 as was Gaganjeet Bhullar. Sharma and Bhullar are the front runners to get to the Paris Olympics from India.

Talking about 2 under 70, Sharma said, “ “It was a very consistent round overall. I didn’t make many mistakes, the places that I did make mistakes on 18 and probably on 8 where I had chip outs. I made good pars. Except for that one bogey on the very first hole of the day which was the 10th where I three-putted. But it was a good round overall. Gave myself so many opportunities and I could have easily been a 6-7 under. It was 2 but I'm really happy that I stuck in there, played really well to the end.”

Anirban Lahiri, a former winner in 2015, had a forgettable 5-over which had very few moments of joy barring the birdies on the 13th, his fourth hole of the day, and the ninth, which was his closing hole. He was T-127 and staring at an early exit barring a dramatic second round.

As three players shared the lead at 65, three others Jordan Smith (England), Sam Bairstow (England) and Romain Langasque (France) carded 66 each to be tied fourth. Seven others shot 5-under 67.

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