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Randhawa eclipses Woods in opening round

November 09, 2006 16:43 IST

Jyoti Randhawa stole the first round thunder at the US $5 million HSBC Champions on Thursday with a flawless seven-under-par 65, eclipsing world-class stars including Tiger Woods.

Randhawa fired a blistering seven birdies at Sheshan International Golf Club to lead by one stroke from Korea's Yang Yong-eun, 2005 US Open champion Michael Campbell of New Zealand and Scotsman Marc Warren.

Woods, who had tennis' world number one and his new friend Roger Federer amongst the crowds at Sheshan, battled to a 72 which included four birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey as his game failed to ignite.

Asian Tour's number one Jeev Milkha Singh of India, playing alongside Woods, enjoyed the satisfaction of outscoring his more famous playing partner with a 70.

Thailand's Chawalit Plaphol ensured a strong Asian presence on the star-studded leaderboard with a 67 that was matched by Europe's number one, Padraig Harrington of Ireland in tied fifth place.

Randhawa, a six-time winner on the Asian Tour, was beaming after his round.

"It's great to have gotten a good round in a field like this especially with Tiger here. But I didn't think about the field as I didn't want to upset my rhythm. They are great players and it's not over yet. This is just the first round and there are three more days to go. I've just got to keep doing what I'm doing."

Looking to emulate compatriot Singh's stunning victory at the Volvo Masters in Spain a fortnight ago, Randhawa He birdied all the par fives and enjoyed a chip-in birdie on the fourth. He took last week off to prepare for Asia's richest event but it wasn't the typical rest or relaxation as Randhawa spent his time riding on his superbike in New Delhi, roaring his machine to speeds of over 200 kph.

Randhawa, Asia's number one in 2002, has also been in winning mood, lifting a second Hero Honda Indian Open title last month and then winning a domestic event in the following week.

"I did a lot of biking which has rejuvenated me!" smiled the Indian.

"I was quite relaxed. I was focused. I played the way the golf course should be played.  I took my chances when I could and I played safe when I had to. I made a few long par putts coming in, six, seven footers, which is quite good for my confidence," said Randhawa.

A refreshed Campbell attributed a three-week break in Sydney prior to the HSBC Champions as the perfect tonic for his push for a first title in 2006. During that time, he only played only one round of golf and played full-time daddy to his two young sons.

"Obviously happy but also surprised. I played I think 18 holes in those three weeks, and I arrived on Monday, played a practice round on Tuesday and Wednesday, and boom, shooting six‑under today was a very surprising start for me," said Campbell, who was bogey-free.

"I think I had no expectations. This year I put too much pressure on myself to perform, and hence, I haven't won yet. But hopefully, you know, this week will change things. I think playing with my son, Thomas, and watching him play with no expectations, having fun, this is what I've missed this year." 

Sweet-swinging Chawalit overcame a double bogey on the par five eighth hole and wielded a hot putter to snare seven birdies.

"I hit a lot of good putts from inside 12 feet. Although I doubled the eighth, I got lucky as my fourth shot hit a rock in the water and bounced back into the rough. It could have been a lot worse," said Chawalit, who enjoyed a top-10 in Japan last weekend.

"This is a good start and hopefully, I can maintain my form. I was targeting a two or three under start, so this is even better. It's a great chance for Asians to play well in such a big event."

The presence of Federer, who is here for the Shanghai Tennis Masters, failed to inspire Woods as he left the course a frustrated man. Despite a superb start with an opening birdie from six feet, the American superstar double bogeyed the next hole by hooking his drive into the jungle and took a penalty drop.

"Very frustrating because I was in a great position to get to about four under and that would have been fine," said Woods, who is bidding for his seventh consecutive strokeplay title and 10th of the year..

"I've got a lot of work to do. The course is playing a lot harder this year, it's firm and fast. There are some pretty good numbers out there and if you make good putts, they are going in. It can be done.

"Roger is a great guy, we've become pretty good friends and it's great of him to come out here and watch and support."

The HSBC Champions is jointly sanctioned by the Asian Tour, European Tour, Southern African Sunshine Tour, PGA Tour of Australasia and China Golf Association.

Leading first round scores:
65 - Jyoti Randhawa (IND)
66 - Michael Campbell (NZL), Yang Yong-eun (KOR), Marc Warren (SCO)
67 - Padraig Harrington (IRL), Chawalit Plaphol (THA)
68 - Retief Goosen (RSA), K J Choi (KOR), Johan Edfors (SWE), John Bickerton (ENG), Alejandro Canizares (ESP)
69 - Peter O'Malley (AUS), Colin Montgomerie (SCO), Chris Dimarco (USA)
70 - Jeev Milkha Singh (IND), Luke Donald (ENG), Scott Strange (AUS)
71 - Bradley Dredge (WAL), Shiv Kapur (IND), Darren Fichardt (RSA), Anton Haig (RSA), Camilo Villegas (COL), Louis Oosthuizen (RSA), Alan Mclean (SCO), Wang Ter-chang (TPE), Markus Brier (AUT)
72 - Gaurav Ghei (IND), Nick O'Hern (AUS), Ian Poulter (ENG), Tiger Woods (USA), Zhang Lian-wei (CHN), Steven Bowditch (AUS), Charl Schwartzel (RSA), Tadahiro Takayama (JPN), Stephen Dodd (WAL), Chinarat Phadungsil (THA), Francesco Molinari (ITA)
73 - David Howell (ENG), Paul Casey (ENG), Anthony Wall (ENG), Robert Karlsson (SWE), Jim Furyk (USA), Gregory Bourdy (FRA)
74 - Mardan Mamat (SIN), Kevin Stadler (USA), Mark Pilkington (WAL), Adam Bland (AUS), Cesar Monasterio (ARG), Chris Rodgers (ENG), Jean Van De Velde (FRA), Warren Abery (RSA).

A Correspondent