Kochi: Delhi’s Rashid Khan and Anil Bajrang Mane of Mumbai topped the leaderboard in round one of the PGTI Cochin Masters presented by CIAL Golf & Country Club. Khan and Mane shot scores of four-under-32 to take the joint lead on the opening day of the season’s second PGTI Super Series event. Gurgaon-based Shubhankar Sharma, Gulfam of Delhi, Faridabad’s Abhinav Lohan, Sanjay Kumar of Lucknow and Chandigarh’s Randhir Singh Ghotra occupy joint third place at three-under-33.
As per the decision of the tournament committee, the front-nine was declared unplayable due to the heavy rain on Monday. Therefore, the tournament was curtailed to a total of 36 holes (9 holes daily) instead of 72 holes. Each stipulated round would consist of nine holes only (10 - 18). A cut will not be applied and all players will play all four rounds. The top 50 scores and ties will be entitled to prize money.
Anil Bajrang Mane started the tournament with a 15-feet birdie conversion on the 10th. He dropped a stroke immediately after on the 11th after finding the hazard. Mane, who hails from the Bombay Presidency Golf Club in Mumbai, got back into his stride with a chip-in for birdie on the 12th. Anil, who finished second on the PGTI Feeder Tour Order of Merit in 2012, landed it within two feet of the pin on the 15th, 16th and 17th for three successive birdies.
“I was off to a perfect start today with a birdie on the 10th hole. The chip-in on the 12th added to my confidence. The weather here is a lot like my home town Mumbai, so the conditions were to my liking. The course is playing longer because of the rains and one has to adapt accordingly. My game is much better this year in comparison to previous seasons. I’ve had two top-30 finishes so far in 2014. I shot the best round of my career, a seven-under, in February this year. I’ve been chipping and putting well and have more control with the driver now. With the cut not being applied this week, I knew there was nothing to lose and therefore played aggressive golf,” said the 32-year-old Mane, a two-time runner-up on the PGTI Feeder Tour.
Rashid Khan, the reigning Rolex Rankings champion, landed it within six feet for birdies on the 11th and 14th. The 23-year-old’s second shot stopped within three feet of the flag on the par-5 16th and thus set up a tap-in for eagle. Rashid had become the latest Indian to win an international event when he won on the Asian Tour in Delhi in March.
Rashid said, “I enjoyed my first outing at the CIAL Golf & Country Club. The layout is great and one has to place the ball well off the tees. It is quite challenging with the water coming into play on a lot of occasions on the back-nine. It’s a good start and I would like to build on it from here on. This is my first Super Series event and I’d like to do well.”
Seventeen-year-old Shubhankar Sharma of Gurgaon made three birdies in his first round for a share of third spot. He was joined by Gulfam, Abhinav Lohan, Sanjay Kumar and Randhir Singh Ghotra, all of whom also produced bogey-free rounds of 33.
Anirban Lahiri and Rahil Gangjee were two among a total of 11 players who ended day one in tied eighth with scores of two-under-34.
Lahiri said, “This course is very well designed. It’s a new venue for me so it’ll take some time for me to adapt to the greens. With the tournament now restricted to 36 holes, one needs to start well as there is no time for recovery. One needs to be little more aggressive on the course.”
Local amateurs Joseph Joseph (seven-over-43) and Alexander K J (10-over-46) are placed tied 115th and tied 121st respectively.