Local golfer Prem came close to sending fifth seeded Kolkatan Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia packing in the opening round of the Rs One million SRF All-India Matchplay Championship which commenced at the Delhi Golf Club on Wednesday.
Chowrasia, however, prevailed in the tightest battle of the day on the 20th hole and ensured no major upsets happened in the first round.
Prem, who beat none other than Jeev Milkha Singh in the opening round of the SRF All-India Matchplay Championship 2003, was involved in a neck and neck battle with the more experienced Chowrasia. The play-off was necessarry after the latter missed a three-foot birdie putt on the 18th. Chowrasia, however, extracted his revenge with a birdie to win the 20th.
In other leading matches, top seed Ashok Kumar beat 64th seed DK Verma 5 & 4, while second seed Vijay Kumar got the better of Satbir Dhama (63) 4 & 3.
Arjun Singh (3) triumphed over Hem Chand 6 & 5, while four time Order of Merit winner Mukesh Kumar (4) prevailed over Minky Barbora (61) 5 & 4.
The most anticipated match of the day, the clash between Shiv Prakash and Indrajit Bhalotia ended in a 7 & 6 win for the former. Bhalotia, returning from a five-month layoff from the sport could find no answer to the percentage golf showcased by his opponent, who put an end to the Kolkatan's misery on the 12th hole.
In the contest between Zai Kipgen (27) and Amit Dube (38), Dube, who lost to Shiv Prakash in the 2002 edition of the tournament, won 7 & 5. Chandigarh's Amritinder Singh (26) beat Lucknow's Sheeraz Kalra (39) 2 & 1.
Leading Asian PGA Tour star and 15th seed Amandeep Johl was given a run for his money by Noida-based 50th seed Pritam Saikia, but the Chandigarh golfer eventually triumphed 1-up.
Two Delhi Golf Club youngsters, Naman Dawar (25) and Jaiveer Virk (40), fought tooth and nail before the burly Dawar inched into the second round at 2 & 1.
"It was a relatively easy opening round," said Vijay Kumar about his confrontation with Satbir Dhama.
"Dhama played very well and was actually one-up after the seventh hole but couldn't sustain the pressure," he added.
Mukesh Kumar used a well-thought out game plan to oust Barbora.
"I played percentage golf till the ninth, where I led at one-up. Thereafter I attacked the pin and there was nothing he could do," smiled Mukesh.
"As for my own game, the feel is back and I am in the perfect frame of mind for matchplay golf," he added.
Tomorrow's round promises some interesting contests with the Amandeep Johl / Rahil Gangjee, Uttam Mundy / Naman Dawar and Digvijay Singh / Amit Dube matches promising to be humdingers.
Important results: 1-Ashok Kumar bt 64-DK Verma (5&4); 2-Vijay Kumar bt 63-Satbir Dhama (4&3); 3-Arjun Singh bt 62-Hem Chand (6&5); 4-Mukesh Kumar bt 61-Minky Barbora (5&4); 5-Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia bt 60-Prem (20th hole); 6-Digvijay Singh bt 59-Sanjay Singh (6&5); 7-Yusuf Ali bt 58-Sachin Nigade (3&2); 8-Uttam Mundy bt 57-Gaurav Diwan (1-up); 9-Rafiq Ali bt 56-Manohar Dike (6&4); 10-Feroz Ali bt 55-Chini Ali (4&3).