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Gangjee, Digvijay well-placed

March 28, 2007 00:47 IST

India's Rahil Gangjee is  hoping to be third time lucky, as he is tied for the lead with Australia's Adam Groom at the British Open International Final Qualifying on Tuesday.

Gangjee, with one Asian Tour title under his belt, was back on course after a two week break as he enjoyed a steady six-under-par 66 in the first round at the Sentosa Golf Club, in Singapore.

The 28-year-old Indian stalwart, together with Groom, have both taken giant steps forward towards making their maiden appearance at The Open to be held at Carnoustie in July.

As this year's qualifiers attracted the biggest field on record with 73 players, the cut for The Open has been increased by one spot where the top five players will gain automatic entry to play in Scotland.

Gangjee and Groom took a narrow one stroke lead over India's Digvijay Singh who enjoyed a bogey free 67 alongside Australia's Lee Won-joon and Sushi Ishigaki who was the highest ranked Japanese player in tied third place. Australia's David Gleeson, in his ninth attempt at the qualifiers, and Toshinori Muto were tied for sixth spot after matching 68s at the Tanjong Course.

Gangjee, who is currently ranked 41st on the Asian Tour's UBS Order of Merit, conquered the front nine with five birdies and coupled with three more birdies against two dropped shots on the way home, the Indian talent was satisfied with his opening round performance.

"I'm pleased since this is my third time at the qualifiers. I was a little tired after the Clariden Leu Singapore Masters and I took around two weeks off, so I'm feeling good," said Gangjee.

"My goal for tomorrow is to not think about anything but focus on my pre shot routine. If I strike it well of the tee, it will be a putting match and that's the key here.

"This is my first time playing at this course though. I think when you have not played the course before, you tend to play pretty good. I remember Edward Fryatt playing at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (1997) when he won the Indian Open. The first round was his first time ever playing there and he fired a nine under, so you never know," added Gangjee.

The leading 28-year-old Australian is equally determined to make it through after chalking up seven birdies against a lone bogey for a fine 66.

"I finally produced a steady round today. I was shooting birdies and bogeys in previous tournaments this year but today, I was consistent the entire round," said Groom.

"I was putting really well and rolling the ball good and I hope to keep it up tomorrow. I'm really excited as this has definitely boosted my chances to make it to The Open," he added.

India's Singh was delighted to be back in the groove with his putter when he blasted five birdies.

"I'm feeling confident now as I've been putting really well today. My putting has eluded me in the past two events and now it's back," said Singh.

"I had one hitch today on the 11th hole but I was quite lucky to get away with it. I hit a weak tee shot and it landed right of the fairway. It was 217 yards to the flag but I struck a three iron and left it 12 feet to the hole. It was tricky but I two putted and I'm happy to come out with a par there," said Singh.

"Funnily enough I played a round with Rahil during practice yesterday and he was striking the ball 290-295 yards of the tee so I expect him to chew up this golf course. No expectations for me as I hope to enjoy myself out on course.

Local favourite Mardan Mamat struck a 71 in tied 12th place while India's Shiv Kapur was even-par for the day in joint 31st position.

Leading first round scores

66 - Adam Groom (Aus); Rahil Gangjee (Ind)

67 - Digvijay Singh (Ind); Lee Won-joon (Aus), Sushi Ishigaki (Jpn)

68 - David Gleeson (Aus); Toshinori Muto (Jpn)

69 - Park Jun-won (Kor); Tony Lascuna (Phi); Chan Song (Kor); Tatsuhiko Ichihara (Jpn)      

70 - Lam Chih-Bing (Sin); Adam Blyth (Aus); Neven Basic (Aus); Angelo Que (Phi); Taichiro Kiyota (Jpn); Gaurav Ghei (Ind); Lee Sung (Kor); Young-nam (USA); Mardan Mamat (Sin); Artemio Murakami (Phi)

71 - Craig Smith (Wls); Brad Kennedy (Aus); Brad Iles (Nzl); Unho Park (Aus); Chinarat Phadungsil (Tha); Gavin Flint (Aus); Massaya Tomida (Jpn); Arjun Singh (Ind).