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Gangjee grabs lead at Brunei Open

August 24, 2006 19:16 IST

Indian stalwart Rahil Gangjee stamped his return with a seven-under-par 64 to take the first round lead at the US$300,000 Brunei Open on Thursday.

Gangjee is on course in his bid to improve his ranking on the Asian Tour's UBS Order of Merit as he blasted eight birdies against a lone bogey at the Empire Hotel and Country Club.

Chinese Taipei's trio of Chen Tze-chung, Sung Mao-chang and 27-year-old Lu Wei-chih were a stroke off the pace in tied second spot.

India's Harmeet Kahlon is joint-fifth after a 66 together with Filipino talent Juvic Pagunsan, who fired eight birdies against three birdies.

Gangjee, 27, who is ranked 45th on the UBS Order of Merit, was pleased to be back on top of the leaderboard after having recovered from a hand injury, sustained during the Macau Open in May. He had previously finished tied 15th at the Crowne Plaza Open last week and is now looking at another improved performance in Brunei.

 "I am quite happy to be performing well here since I had to pull out of the Macau Open when I injured my left hand. Since the injury, I was unable to compete in Koh Samui (Bangkok Airways Open) or the Philippines Open. Now that it has recovered, I am glad to be back in the leading fray," said Gangjee, who is in his third season on the Asian Tour.

 Gangjee stumbled to a bogey on the opening 10th hole but bounced back with birdies on the 12th, 15th and 16th holes. He then struck four consecutive birdies on the first, second third and fourth holes and closed in with a final birdie on the eighth hole.

"The greens are in great condition and I putted really well today. Pretty much everything within 15 feet was a good try for a birdie," he said.

"I did not have the best of starts with a bogey but made eight birdies so that was nice. I hit a couple of bad shots last week but I went to the range and sorted that out. I want to win again and hope to finish in the top ten of the Order of Merit."

Tze-chung was in the heat of battle as he scored seven birdies with a single bogey on the par three fourth hole.

"It was really hot out there. But I'm glad that I managed to strike it well today. Ball control is the key here and I hope that I will carry on my run tomorrow," said Tze Chung.

"I missed about two greens today which was quite good. I have never putted this well in the last five years, I was almost on target on every shot," he said.

Compatriot Wei-chih, winner of the 2005 Mercuries Taiwan Masters, enjoyed a blemish free round with six birdies.

"I am happy with my round as everything worked out well. I was good off the tee, solid on my irons and putted well so overall I enjoyed myself," said Wei-chih.

"Some of the Chinese Taipei players have been performing strongly today so I hope we can continue our good form tomorrow."

India's Jyoti Randhawa managed a 73 while Thailand's Thaworn Wiratchant was even-par for the day.

Leading first round scores:

64 - Rahil Gangjee (IND)

65 - Chen Tze-chung (TPE), Sung Mao-chang (TPE), Lu Wei-chih (TPE)

66 - Harmeet Kahlon (IND), Juvic Pagunsan (PHI)

67 - David Gleeson (AUS), Anton Haig (RSA), Unho Park (AUS), Boonchu Ruangkit (THA), Scott Strange (AUS), Simon Yates (SCO), Mike Cunning (USA), Simon Nash (AUS), Ross Bain (SCO), Rick Gibson (CAN), Adam Le Vesconte (AUS), Terry Pilkadaris (AUS), Michael Wright (AUS), Chang Tse-peng (TPE)

68 - Chapchai Nirat (THA), Simon Griffiths (ENG), Andrew Pitts (USA), Jason Knutzon (USA), Jason King (AUS), Garth Mulroy (RSA), Henry Perks (AUS), Wang Ter-chang (TPE), Nico Van Rensburg (RSA), Kim Tae-jin (KOR)

69 - Lu Wen-teh (TPE), Bryan Saltus (USA), Richard Moir (AUS), Wisut Artjanawat (THA), Kao Bo-Song (TPE), Artemio Murakami (PHI), Rashid Ismail (MAS), Somkiat Srisanga (THA), Barry Hume (SCO), Matt Keegan (AUS), Lin Wen-hong (TPE).