Jamshedpur, Jharkhand, 14 Dec 2017

Rookies Viraj Madappa & Tapy Ghai dominate round one of 16th TATA Open 2017

Madappa leads at nine-under, Ghai one behind, Veer Ahlawat fires three eagles to equal PGTI record

Round one of the 16th TATA Open 2017 belonged to rookies Viraj Madappa of Kolkata and Gurgaon-based Tapy Ghai. While 20-year-old Madappa shot the day’s best, an exhilarating nine-under-62, to lead the field in his first ever competitive round at the Golmuri Golf Course, 21-year-old Ghai was one shot behind in second place.

The other big news of the day was Delhi-based professional Veer Ahlawat’s incredible round of six-under-65 that featured an astonishing three eagles. He thus equaled the PGTI record for most eagles in a single round. The record for three eagles in a round was first set by the legendary Ali Sher back in 2010 at the Panchkula Golf Club. The 21-year-old Veer occupied tied fourth place on day one.

Viraj Madappa, fresh from a tied third finish at PGTI’s last event in Mumbai last week, continued his hot streak thanks to a flawless 62 that featured an eagle and seven birdies.

The six-foot-two-inch tall Madappa, didn’t seem to be unfamiliar with the Golmuri track despite making his debut at the course as he picked up four birdies on the front-nine.

Viraj, who currently leads the PGTI Emerging Player of the Year race, courtesy four top-5s in the season, then built on the momentum by driving the green on the par-4 12th that led to an eagle-two. He followed that up with three more birdies to finish in style.

Viraj said, “I’m quite pleased with my effort as this is my first event at Golmuri. I hit all the right spots and also got lucky when I didn’t. I took advantage of those lucky breaks. This course makes you think and I decided not to be too aggressive and just go for the widest spots on the fairways. I executed that plan well.

“I introduced some changes in my swing about two weeks back. I’m now beginning to settle down with those changes as my ball-striking has improved due to it. My round really gathered steam after the eagle on the 12th. That’s when I realized that I had a chance of going quite low. I finished it well with some long conversions on the 14th and 17th.”

Tapy Ghai, like Madappa, also playing his first season as a professional, had a brilliant run of five consecutive birdies from the 14th to the 18th that took his score to six-under at the turn.

Tapy added two more birdies on the second and fourth and was looking good for the joint lead when he had to make a chip-putt for birdie on the closing ninth. His terrific chip shot hit the flag stick and landed five feet from the hole. However, he missed the birdie putt and had to end the day in second place.

Ghai said, “I struck it really well today and made almost all putts. I did well with my gap wedge to set up some short birdie putts.

“This is a crucial event for me since I’m 88th on the PGTI Order of Merit and need to get into the top-60 with a good performance this week to secure my card. In that context, this opening round of 63 is all the more significant.”

While Sri Lankan K Prabagaran was in third place at seven-under-64, there was a bunch of five golfers in tied fourth at six-under-65 including Veer Ahlawat who produced a record-equalling feat of three eagles in his round.

Ahlawat’s breathtaking round featured chip-ins on the 12th and fourth, both eagle-twos, and a 15 feet eagle conversion on the closing ninth. He thus equalled Ali Sher’s 2010 record set during the PGTI Players Championship at Panchkula Golf Club. Ahlawat has now also emerged as the Eagle Leader in the 2017 PGTI season with 11 eagles under his belt. He had made four eagles last week in Mumbai.

Ahlawat, a runner-up in Digboi last month, said, “I wasn’t putting well so my chipping saved me today. My game has really improved over the last two matches and so has my confidence.”

Among the Jamshedpur golfers in the field, amateur Navtez Singh shot a 70 to be tied 50th while Kurush Heerjee, also an amateur, fired a 72 to be tied 81st. Professional Karan Taunk returned a 76 to be tied 114th.

The first round saw a delayed start of 20 minutes due to fog in the morning. As a result, the round could not be completed and play was suspended at 1709 hrs local time due to fading light. Four out of the total 126 players are yet to complete their first round. They will resume their round at 0700 hrs local time on Friday.

Leading Scores:

62: Viraj Madappa
63: Tapy Ghai
64: K Prabagaran
65: Mukesh Kumar, Pravin Pathare, Abhijit Singh Chadha, Manu Gandas, Veer Ahlawat

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