Gaganjeet Bhullar sets the early pace with a 64 at TATA Steel Tour Championship
Former champion Gaganjeet Bhullar set the early pace with an eight-under 64 thus taking a two-shot first-round lead at the INR 3 crore TATA Steel Tour Championship 2023, the TATA Steel PGTI’s season-ending event being played at the Beldih and Golmuri Golf Courses in Jamshedpur.
The seven players bunched in tied second place with scores of 66 were Kartik Sharma, N Thangaraja, Angad Cheema, Shamim Khan, Divyanshu Bajaj, Arjun Prasad and Khalin Joshi.
The first round of the tournament saw one half of the field play their first nine holes at Golmuri Golf Course and second nine at Beldih Golf Course while the other half of the field played Beldih first followed by Golmuri. This format will also be followed for the next three rounds of the tournament in Jamshedpur with the par for the round being 72.
Gaganjeet Bhullar, riding high on his recent victory in Asia, had a dream start as he made birdies on his first three holes followed by an eagle on the fourth. Thirty-five-year-old Bhullar, a winner of 12 international titles, found the edge of the green with his approaches on the second and third, both par-5s, to set up two-putts. He then chipped-in for an eagle on the fourth. On the ninth, Gaganjeet sank a 20-footer to move his score to six-under for the day.
The bogey on the 11th wasn’t too much a cause of concern for Bhullar because he came back stronger with three birdies thereafter. Gaganjeet thus managed to capitalize on all the five par-5 holes with birdies on each one of them.
Gaganjeet, who won the event in 2020, said, “The game has been trending well and I had a dream start today being five-under over the first four holes. I gave myself a lot of birdie opportunities by making 16 greens in regulation and driving it well, especially at Golmuri. I just missed two fairways on the back-nine at Beldih.
“We have a very different kind of set up here as we play each round across two courses. However, I was mentally and physically prepared for it as I’ve played this format before at Jamshedpur. It takes a few holes to adapt to the green speed when one moves from one course to the other. It took me a few holes to get used to the different green speed when I moved from Golmuri to Beldih today but after that it was smooth sailing.”
Defending champion Chikkarangappa S fired a 70 to be tied 23rd while the 2019 and 2021 winner Udayan Mane was a shot behind in tied 36th place.
TATA Steel PGTI Ranking leader Om Prakash Chouhan’s 72 placed him tied 47th.
The two Jamshedpur-based professionals Karan Taunk (72) and Kurush Heerjee (75) were placed tied 47th and tied 66th respectively.
Round 1 Leaderboard:
64: Gaganjeet Bhullar
66: Kartik Sharma, N Thangaraja, Angad Cheema, Shamim Khan, Divyanshu Bajaj, Arjun Prasad, Khalin Joshi
67: Akshay Sharma
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