Karandeep Kochhar makes a statement with opening day 63, enjoys one-shot lead at Vooty & Haldi Presents Golconda Masters 2020 Powered by Telangana Tourism
Aman Raj, Trishul Chinnappa and Khalin Joshi also shine with rounds of 64 to be tied second
Karandeep Kochhar of Chandigarh, who capped his career-best season last year with a fourth-place finish on the TATA Steel PGTI Order of Merit, showed signs of carrying forward his hot form into the 2020 season as he struck a masterly eight-under-63 to seize the first round lead at the season-opening Vooty & Haldi Presents Golconda Masters 2020 Powered by Telangana Tourism being played at the Hyderabad Golf Club (HGC).
The 20-year-old Kochhar, who became the youngest-ever winner on the PGTI back in 2016 at age 17 years and five months while still an amateur, enjoyed a one-stroke advantage over Patna’s Aman Raj and the Bengaluru duo of Trishul Chinnappa and Khalin Joshi, all three of whom posted 64s.
It was a low-scoring day with as many as 51 players shooting under-par rounds.
Karandeep Kochhar began the tournament with birdies on the first two holes thanks to a tap-in and a 20-feet conversion. Karandeep, who missed just one green all day, added three more birdies on the sixth, seventh and eighth to quickly climb up the leaderboard.
A few missed birdie opportunities early on the back-nine didn’t dampen Kochhar’s spirit as he continued his upward graph with another hat-trick of birdies from the 15th through the 17th. He drove the par-4 15th green and chipped it to within a foot on the 17th. A great bunker shot on the 18th set the youngster up for his fourth straight birdie but his 15-feet putt lipped out.
Karandeep, who went bogey-free on Wednesday, said, “I was in contention here last year and played in the leader group in the final round before ending up fourth. I really like this venue as the greens are similar to those at my home course, the Chandigarh Golf Club.
“Today what worked was that I found all the greens barring one and also got through the tough opening stretch with two birdies. That’s exactly what is required to score well here. A couple of holes at the start are tricky as the fairways are narrow so one must keep it in play there to avail of the scoring opportunities later on.
“I’m carrying a lot of confidence from my performances last year. I’ll try to maintain that form.
“I changed my swing about 10 days back so that seems to be paying off especially with my iron-play being so good today. My putting was spot-on since I didn’t make a single three-putt.”
Aman Raj, the joint runner-up at last year’s Golconda Masters, once again displayed he has what it takes to negotiate the tough conditions at the HGA. The Asian Tour regular, who had shot three rounds of 64 at the 2019 edition, came up with another 64 on Wednesday to make an impact early on in the tournament.
Aman began his day on the back-nine and accumulated birdies on the 12th, 15th and 16th. He narrowly missed a chip-in for eagle on the 15th. On the front-nine, after missing a couple of chances within 10 feet on the first two holes, the 24-year-old hit a purple patch from the fifth onward making four consecutive birdies with conversions from a range of four to eight feet.
Aman said, “It was a fairly consistent day for me. I’m happy to have kept the errors out. I got on a roll towards the end and could’ve made a fifth consecutive birdie had my eight-feet putt not lipped out on the closing ninth. I made a really good par save from eight feet on the 13th after hitting it over the green.
“I have the confidence of having played well here last year when I finished joint runner-up. So this course is all about placing the ball well and putting. You need not hit the ball too long but you have to judge the wind well as the wind also plays a decisive role here.”
Trishul Chinnappa began his season with an eagle-two as he holed his approach from 117 yards on the par-4 first hole. Chinnappa added seven birdies and two bogeys thereafter.
Khalin Joshi, struggling with a neck injury coming into the tournament, too began the tournament with an eagle when he rolled in his wedge shot from just off the green on his opening 10th hole. Joshi added seven birdies and two bogeys to his card joined Aman and Trishul in a three-way tie for second place.
Five players were bunched together in tied fifth with rounds of 65. This included Sri Lankan Mithun Perera, Mhow’s Om Prakash Chouhan, Ludhiana’s Pukhraj Singh Gill, Gurugram’s Veer Ahlawat and Kolkata’s Shankar Das.
Rashid Khan, the leading Indian in the world ranking at 177 and also the 2019 PGTI Order of Merit champion, carded a 66 to be placed tied 10th.
Pune’s Udayan Mane, the 2018 Golconda Masters champion and winner of PGTI’s last event in December 2019, returned a 68 to be tied 18th.
Venkkat Gautham was the best-placed among the Hyderabad-based professionals. He was in tied 27th courtesy his two-under-69.
Former Indian hockey captain Dilip Tirkey, playing as a professional for the first time, produced a 10-over-81 to be placed 125th.
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