Gaurav Ghei put to excellent use his knowledge of his home course to return a round of six-under 66, thereby pole-vaulting into the lead at the Rs Five million PSPB Open Petroleum Golf Championship 2005, at the par-72 Delhi Golf Club.
The tournament is the 17th leg of the Amby Valley PGAI Tour's 2004-05 season.
Amandeep Johl and '98 Indian Open winner Feroz Ali fired identical rounds of 67 to settle at tied-second position, while 17-year old amateur Gaganjeet Bhullar, the top-ranked amateur in India, proved his phenomenal talent with a round of 68 which handed him the sole fourth spot.
Among the Thai contenders, Wisut Arjanawat performed best with a card of level-par 72, while A Prathumanee played to 74. The two were tied for the 18th and 24th positions respectively.
When Gaurav Ghei walks into the Delhi Golf Club, he probably thinks back to each of his four triumphs at that venue staring with that historical chip-in for eagle to win the Gadgil Western Masters in 1995 right up to his 2002 title triumph at the Royal Challenge Grand Prix.
Today the platform was well-laid for that victory count to increase by another number as Gaurav reeled off a round of six-under 66 on his favourite hunting ground.
A tenth tee starter, Gaurav birdied his opening hole and went on to essay three more birdies on the 14th, 15th and 18th to make the turn at four-under. On his return journey the golfer birdied the first and second holes with the latter birdie resulting from a brilliant 20-feet putt. His only error of the day came in the form of a bogey on the seventh where his 7-iron found the greenside bunker and he went on to two-putt from 10 feet upon reaching the green. The birdie on the eighth however undid the error.
"It was a tough day for golf with the wind which was blowing across, having a major say in matters. Though I teed off with a driver on the tenth I used my irons on every tee thereafter," said the India Cements-sponsored golfer.
"I had a simple game plan of keeping the ball on the fairway and that my putting aided me today further helped matters," he added.
Johl, who in many ways pioneered India's foray into the Asian circuit, lived up to his reputation as one of the leading title contenders. The bearded Chandigarh pro, much like Ghei warded off the challenge posed by the wind to go one up on the course early on in the tournament.
Johl, who had a birdie-birdie start to his round, dropped a shot on the third. A birdie on the 8th placed him at two-under on the tenth tee. His back nine saw Johl birdie the 11th, 12th (where he sank a 30-footer), 15th and 18th with a lone birdie on the 13th preventing him from tying for the lead.
"My bogeys today resulted from almost similar errors when my ball bouncing off the fairway into the thicket," said the SAIL-sponsored pro.
"I won an event at the Delhi Golf Club way back in 1989 at the All India Amateur Championship where I beat Uttam Mundy in the final. A win here this week would be my first as a professional at this historic golf course and I am going for nothing short of gold," said the 36-year old, who finished tied-29th at Sanya Open in China recently.
Feroz Ali, who teed off from the tenth, birdied the 12th, 13th, 15th and 17th with a bogey on the 13th on his outward journey. His back-nine was error free and studded with birdies on the first and second. Feroz, who has had an indifferent season thus far will be keen to scale up the Order of Merit with a good showing here this week.
Simarjeet assumes lead among amateurs: Top-ranked amateur Tour star Gaganjeet Bhullar fired an impressive round of 68 to assume a one stroke lead over Simarjeet Singh in the amateur category.
Scores (after 18 holes): 66 Gaurav Ghei, 67 Amandeep Johl, Feroz Ali; 69 Ashok Kumar, Digvijay Singh, SSP Chowrasia, Praduman Guleria; 70 Arjun Singh, Suleiman Ali; 71 BG Lalith Kumara, Brijpal Singh, Gast Ram, Jumman, Mukesh Kumar, Rafick Ali, Ranjit Singh, Vijay Kumar.
Amateurs: 68 Gaganjeet Bhullar; 69 Simarjeet Singh; 71 Chirag Kumar, Vikrant Chopra.