Mohammad Islam put to good use his new PING driver to fire a superb round of five-under 67 and assume the opening round lead at the Rs One million Sir Padampat Singhania Open, which commenced at the par-72, Noida Golf Course on Wednesday.
The Chandigarh duo of Gurbaaz Mann and Amritinder Singh impressed with rounds of four-under 68 each which tied them at second position, one higher than Bangalore's Gaurav Diwan.
The duo of Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia (Kolkata) and S Madhaiah (Banglore) were tied for fifth place at two-under 70.
Mohammad Islam is all of 41 years old. As old as Vijay Singh and much like the world's top ranked golfer, but to a far lesser degree, he has tasted an acceleration of form in the past few months.
The Patna Golf Club pro, who till last season was considered an average golfer, is today bracketed as good taking into view his performances in the 2004-05 Amby Valley PGAI Tour season.
As recently as a month ago, Islam fired a brilliant six-under 66 at the RCGC Open on the Royal Calcutta Golf Club, considered to be one of the toughest golf courses in the country.
On that occasion, the veteran was forced out of the lead by Shiv Kapur, who nudged one shot ahead. Today, Islam basked alone in the limelight.
A tenth tee starter, he struck gold early with a birdie on the 12th. Two more followed on the 14th and 15th before a bogey on the 16th halted the good work. Islam made up with a birdie on the 17th to walk on to the first tee box at a healthy three-under. A birdie start to his back-nine followed by his fifth birdie of the day on the seventh, handed the smiling assassin the club-house lead.
"I putted really well today and my PING driver helped me keep the ball on the fairway," said Islam.
"Tomorrow I will take things as they come," he added.
"I have grown as a golfer over the past few months," was what Gurbaaz Mann had to say. The golfer who missed the bus from a winning position at the Surya Nepal Masters in Kathmandu and again at the Hero Honda Open West, Pune, in the recent past has adopted a new attitude which was apparent in his round of 68 today.
Gurbaaz, a first tee starter, began with two straight pars but dropped a shot on the third. He made up for this error with a birdie on the following hole and went on to make the turn at level par.
On his back-nine, Gurbaaz caught fire with birdies on the tenth and 14th and finished with a flourish with back-to-back birdies on the 17th and 18th.
"I putted poorly today but for which I would have finished far better," said the golfer. Gurbaaz missed putts four feet and shorter in length on several occasions or would have comfortably taken the lead.
Amritinder Singh, a regular on the Asian PGA Tour threw in his hat for his maiden title win on the Amby Valley PGAI Tour this season. The well-built Chandigarh golfer a leading title challenger started his round with a par-birdie combination. Another birdie on the fourth placed him at two-under at the lemon break. Thereafter the 33 year old birdied the tenth but dropped a shot on the 16th.
Much like Gurbaaz, he ended his round with birdies on the 17th and 18th to return a card of 68.
Shaurya leads amateur challenge: Shaurya Singh fired a round of level-par 72 to lead the amateur field over Aparup Saikia, who was positioned two strokes behind.
Scores (after 18 holes): 67 Mohd Islam; 68 Gurbaaz Mann, Amritinder Singh; 69 Gaurav Diwan; 70 SSP Chowrasia, S Madhaiah; 71 Pappan, Rafick Ali, Sanjay Kumar, Ranjit Singh, Sujjan Singh Amateurs: 72 Shaurya Singh; 74 Aparup Saikia.