Gaganjeet Bhullar and Vijay Kumar returned identical scores of six-under-par 64 to grab the early advantage in the Rs 70 lakh Cromptom Greaves Open Golf championship in Mumbai on Thursday.
Another regular contender on the domestic circuit, Mukesh Kumar, also had a good round and was just one stroke behind the leaders after carding a bogey-free five-under65 with the help of four birdies, at the par-70 Bombay Presidency Golf Club course in suburban Chembur.
Yusuf Ali was a further stroke behind with a score of 66, while the current 2006-07 PGTI Order of Merit leader Ashok Kumar shot a three-under-par 67 over the first 18 holes of the 72-hole stroke-play competition.
Bhullar started with four consecutive birdies and picked up another on the par-three sixth where he holed a 15-foot putt for par. But a double bogey on the ninth hole, after hitting his drive out of bounds, saw him make the turn at three-under.
The 2006 Asian Games silver medallist then birdied the 10th, dropped a shot on the 12th after he fluffed his second shot into the bunker and missed a short putt for par.
He recovered poise by birdying the 14th, 16th and 18th holes to finish a satisfying day.
Vijay Kumar birdied the first three holes and picked up a shot each in the fifth, sixth and eighth holes to be six-under after eight holes for an incredible start.
However, a bogey on the ninth saw him make the turn at five-under.
He then birdied the 10th and 12th holes, but dropped shots on the 15th and 17th before a birdie on the last levelled him with Bhullar.
Uttam Singh Mundy played consistent golf to card a two-under-par 68 as did Chandigarh's Harmeet Kahlon. Roop Singh and Sanjay Kumar were tied further behind at one-under-par, 69.
Numerous players were tied at level-par, 70 including Digvijay Singh, Richard Backwell and Arjun Singh. The top contender this week, Shiv Kapur fought off his backache bravely and carded a two-over-par, 72.
Scores (After 18 holes): 64 - Gaganjeet Bhullar, Vijay Kumar; 65 - Mukesh Kumar; 66_Yusuf Ali; 67 - Ashok Kumar; 68 - Uttam Singh Mundy, Harmeet Kahlon; 69 - Roop Singh, Sanjay Singh.
70 - Indrajit Bhalotia, Amardip Sinh Malik, Shamim Khan, Digvijay Singh, Harendra Gupta, Rahul Ganapathy, Richard Backwell, Vishal Singh, Arjun Singh, Gast Ram, Sandeep Syal, BG Lalith Kumara, Shaurya Singh, Md Salim.