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Noida, 04 Oct 2017

M Dharma takes route 63 to the top in round one of ONGC Masters 2017

Abhishek Jha one shot back

It was M Dharma all the way in round one of the ONGC Masters 2017, a tournament that returned on the PGTI schedule after eight years. The Bengaluru golfer shot one of the best rounds of his career, a flawless nine-under-63, at the Noida Golf Course on Wednesday, to make his way to the top of the leaderboard.

Abhishek Jha, another Bengalurean, also came up with an exceptional effort of eight-under-64 to be placed second.

Dharma, who posted top-10s in the last two PGTI events, continued his good work on the course. After three birdies on the back nine, Dharma picked up the pace with birdies on the first and second. But it was his birdie run on the last four holes that turned out to be the highlight of his round.

Dharma sank putts at will on the last four holes, draining four from a range of 10 to 20 feet. He even salvaged a birdie from the bunker on the eighth.

Dharma, a former winner on the PGTI, said, “I’ve been in contention all year. I’ve made the cut in all 10 events that I’ve played this year. I’ve constantly been in a strong position after the first two rounds of most events this year. It’s the third and fourth rounds where I’ve been slipping. I need to finish better.

“This is one of my best rounds ever. It was a combination of some good ball-striking and consistent putting. I’ll continue to play steady from here on in order to build on the solid start.

“My improved performances are a result of all the work I’ve put in with regard to my physical fitness. Fitness was never my strength but now it has given me much more stability on the course.”

Abhishek Jha was hitting it close through the day and therefore didn’t need his putter to do much work. He scored four birdies on the front nine and followed that up with a hat-trick of birdies from the 10th to the 12th. Jha landed his tee shot within a foot of the flag on the 10th. He also came close to making eagle on the 11th when he almost holed it from the fairway. 

The tall and lanky Abhishek, yet to bag his maiden title, finally earned an eagle on the 14th. However, a double bogey on the next where he found the trees and then missed a two-footer on the green, seemed to have come at the wrong time for Jha. But he regained some ground with a birdie on the 17th.

Abhishek said, “I was pleasantly surprised with my round. I backed myself after every good and bad shot. The belief I had in myself was the key.

“I didn’t let the double bogey on the 15th affect me. I was proud with the way I bounced back with the birdie on the 17th. Playing the MENA Tour during the summer months helped me get in some good tournament practice. That has contributed to raising my game.”

R Murthy’s seven-under-65 meant there were three Bengalureans at the top after day one.

Noida had representation in the top-5 as the local duo of Amardip Sinh Malik and Dipankar Kaushal closed the day in tied fourth at 66 along with Sri Lanka’s K Prabagaran.

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