It has been exactly 10 years since he has won a title. Asgar Ali, the 43-year-old Kolkatan, taught the youngsters a few lessons as he fired a career-best six-under par 66 to lead the field on the opening day of the Rs 850,000 SERVO Masters 2003, the eighth leg of the Hero Honda Indian Golf Tour 2003-04 season at the Digboi Golf Links course today.
Asgar's city-mate SSP Chowrasia and Gast Ram are three strokes behind the leader with 69 apiece. Pappan and Zai Kipgen share the fourth spot with a total of 2-under par 70 while five others - Sandeep Syal, Sanjay Kumar, Suleman Ali, Vishal Singh and Yusuf Ali shared the sixth position.
Asgar, who is battling with back pain, has been advised rest by the doctor. However, the zeal to play has brought him back to the course. After an early birdie on the third, he ended up with a bogey on the fifth. But he came back strongly, firing a quadruple of birdies, beginning from the very next hole to be four-under for the front nine.
Asgar, who did not have much of practice before playing this tournament as
his club the Royal Calcutta Golf Club re-opened only a short while ago, played it a little safe on the back nine adding only a couple of birdies on the 14th and the par-3 16th which is the signature hole of the course.
"My putting was exceptionally good. Actually I did not read the line. I just stood there and putted and to my luck they all went in," said Asgar, who had just 21 putts for the day.
Meanwhile, SSP Chowrasia who has been struggling with his form in the current season, began from the 10th and had a dreary start with a double bogey on the par-5 11th after visiting the bushes twice. He also missed a 3-feet par putt on the 13th. But the 25-year-old Kolkatan began the repair work with a hat trick of birdies beginning from the 14th where he drove the green and two putted from 25 feet. The best of his seven birdies was on the difficult par-4 first where one needs to negotiate the undulations from the fairway. With a driver and a 8-iron shot, he was on the fringe from where he holed a 20-footer.
Chowrasia, who had finished runner-up in the 1999 Indian Open, made another hat-trick of birdies, starting from the third, where he drove the 291-yard par-4 third and missed an eagle putt from three feet.
Gast Ram also submitted a similar card. The Delhi pro who began from the 10th made five birdies (14th, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 7th). The 33-year-old pro made a bogey from the edge of par-3 10th while missing a short par-putt on the 18th to finish three-under par 69.
Meanwhile in the amateurs section, Anitya Chand led the field with a well-compiled one-over 73.
Top scores (Pros): 66_Asgar Ali; 69_Gast Ram, SSP Chowrasia; 70_Pappan, Zai Kipgen; 71_Sandeep Syal, Sanjay Kumar, Suleman Ali, Vishal Singh, Yusuf Ali; 72_Ashok Kumar, Rafiq Ali, Raj Singh.
Amateurs: 73_Anitya Chand; 74_Girish Virk.