In stark contrast to his diminutive built, SSP Chowrasia is used to registering tall marks. On a sultry day, the Kolkata pro shot a superb eight-under par 64 to grab the lead in the opening round of the Hindu Open at the Cosmo-TNGF Golf Course in Chennai on Wednesday. The Hindu Open forms the third leg of the Amby Valley PGAI Tour 2005-06 season.
Ranjit Singh, with a card of six-under par 66, was placed second while as many as three players - defending champion Ashok Kumar, Kolkatan Arjun Singh and Pakistani Waheed Balouch were tied for the third place at 67.
Vijay Kumar and Vishal Singh shared the sixth spot at 68. N Uthamanathan was best amongst the local challenge, scoring a 69, to be tied for the eighth place along with Harindr Gupta, Matloob Rana, Mohd. Salim and Randhir Ghotra.
As many as 35 par or better scores were recorded for the day.
Chowrasia attacked from the word `start' going across the dog-leg first fairway and setting up a birdie with a chip to four-feet from the pin. It was just the beginning of a superb round as the 27-year-old unleashed an array of strokes around the green that helped him garner as many as three more birdies on the front nine. The birdies came on the second, fourth and seventh. On the return journey, Chowrasia's game got only better when he saved four more strokes on the 10th, 12th, 13th and 15th. On the par-5 16th, with a driver-6 iron approach, Chowrasia who finished sixth on the Amby Valley PGAI Tour Order of Merit, made a superb sandy birdie after being in the deep bunker on the left.
However, on the par-3 17th, which is the most difficult hole of the course, the Kolkatan hit the green but the ball bounced off it and landed in the rough on the right from where he lost the only stroke of the day.
"There was no way that I could have chipped. I had to putt. A bogey was inevitable on that hole," said Chowrasia after the round. "I was pretty disappointed with my putting last week in Bangalore. And I worked on my putting and hence was able to putt much better," said Chowrasia, who made just 26 putts for the day while hitting 15 greens-in-regulation.
Ranjit Singh, who was joined by his wife Navjot, also began in a similar fashion making birdies on the first two holes. The 30-year-old who has donned the turban and sporting the beard once again after a gap of seven years, saved two more strokes on sixth and ninth before making the turn. On the back nine, with three birdies in the first four holes, Ranjit was seven-under for the day. However, he three-putted on the 15th to drop as shot while also missing another birdie on the 16th from close distance.
"It was hot but once I was in the groove, it didn't bother me. I was happy with my game and I am also happy that my lucky charm (wife) is back," he smiled.
Arjun shines: Meanwhile, Arjun Singh, the son of former Asian Games gold medallist Laxman Singh, fondly known as `Bunny' Laxman Singh, impressed with a card of five-under. The 24-year-old played the junior amateur circuit before embarking for the US for higher studies. Coming back after graduating from Bethuna Cookman College in Florida this year, the young rookie decided to turn pro.
A 10th tee starter, Arjun fired three and four birdies respectively on the either side of the nines. A bogey on the third and the finishing ninth were the only blemishes. The Royal Calcutta Golf Club pro missed as many as eight greens but made it up with some good putting making just 23 putts for the round.
"I am happy with my round, especially after I missed the cut in my previous two outings," said Arjun.
Top scores (after 18 holes) (Pro): 64 SSP Chowrasia (Kol); 66 Ranjit Singh (Chd); 67 Ashok Kumar (Del), Arjun Singh (Kol), Waheed Balouch (Pak); 68 Vishal Singh (Jaipur), Vijay Kumar (Lucknow); 69 Harinder Gupta (Chd), Matloob Rana (Pak), Mohd. Salim (Kol), N Uthaamanathan (Chen), Randhir Ghotra (Chen); 70 Amritinder Singh, Digvijay Singh (Both Gurgaon). Amateurs: 73 Abhishek Jha, L Selvadurai.