The opening round of the Pune Open 2017 was characterized by windy conditions and the resultant high scores. While Sudhir Sharma of Greater Noida took pole position courtesy a resolute four-under-67, the trio consisting of defending champion Harendra Gupta of Chandigarh, Bengalurean Khalin Joshi and KPS Sekhon, another Chandigarh golfer, were in tied second at three-under-68.
Sudhir Sharma, who was also the joint first round leader at last week’s PGTI event in Kochi, put in a great effort to negotiate the tough conditions at the Poona Club Golf Course on Thursday. Sudhir, a two-time winner on the PGTI Feeder Tour, began the week with a splendid up and down for a par-save on the first.
The 29-year-old, working on returning to his old swing after a year’s gap, struck it well on the front-nine to set up some short birdie putts, including four from within five feet. After making the turn at four-under, he had a quieter back-nine which featured a birdie and a bogey each. His longest putt of the day was the 22-feet birdie conversion on the 15th.
Sharma said, “It’s the kind of start I was looking for. I started well last week as well but slipped towards the end of the tournament after some poor hitting. My driving was good today and I hit it pretty close on a number of occasions thus negating the tough scoring conditions.
“However, it was a little disappointing to miss some birdie opportunities towards the close of the round. I missed out from 10 feet and less on the last three holes. It’s all about confidence now. Playing one shot at a time and focusing hard will be the key now,” added Sudhir, who slipped from joint first in round one to tied 23rd in round four at last week’s event in Kochi.
Title holder Harendra Gupta made a promising start with a three-under-68 to take a share of second place. Gupta pulled off a magical recovery for birdie on the opening hole where he had a blind second shot from the adjoining fairway. He managed to land that 17 feet from the pin thanks to a low hook and converted the putt.
Three more birdies and a bogey followed for Harendra who is playing the 2017 season with a new set of irons.
Gupta said, “I played the first five holes really well but then there was a flurry of missed opportunities. So it was a kind of mixed day for me. The superb recovery on the first hole was crucial. Had that second shot gone wrong, I could’ve been in deep trouble and may have ended up with an over-par score. It’s now about building on the decent start.”
KPS Sekhon made an astonishing recovery despite an early triple bogey on the 11th, his second hole of the day, where he had found the hazard, to post a 68. He was at two-over through 13 holes when he came up with a dream run of five straight birdies to end up with an impressive three-under.
“My putter was on fire from the fifth hole onwards as I made two consecutive 10-feet conversions. I just rode on the momentum after those putts fell in.
“I had not been putting well before this event since I was putting too much pressure on myself on the greens by thinking about the results. But today I focused on just stroking it well and didn’t really think about the results. I was more relaxed and process-oriented today rather than being result-oriented. That helped my performance,” said the 41-year-old Sekhon.
Khalin Joshi shot four birdies and a bogey to also share the second spot along with Gupta and Sekhon at three-under-68.
PGTI Order of Merit leader Shamim Khan of Delhi was bunched together with seven other golfers in tied fifth at two-under-69.
Maharashtra-based golfers, Gurki Shergill of Pune and Mumbai’s Anil Bajrang Mane were both in tied 22nd at even-par-71.