Chennai, 01 Mar 2018

N Thangaraja dominates round one with breathtaking 61

Sri Lankan N Thangaraja, the joint runner-up at the PGTI event in Hyderabad last week, sent out an early warning to all his fellow competitors in round one of the Chennai Open 2018 Golf Championship at the Madras Gymkhana Club Golf Annexe in Guindy on Thursday.

Colombo-resident Thangaraja dominated the opening round with a breathtaking nine-under-61 that featured an eagle, eight birdies and a bogey. It was the joint best round of Thangaraja’s career that gave him a handy three-shot lead.

Delhi’s Shamim Khan, the 2017 PGTI Order of Merit champion, brought in a card of six-under-64 that placed him second.

N Thangaraja, eager to make up for missing the cut at the previous edition of the Chennai Open in 2016, looked in menacing form from the very start. The two-time champion on the PGTI, carrying a knee injury since January this year, was striking it like a dream and as a result sank birdies on the first four holes before picking up two more on the sixth and seventh.

The ever-smiling Thangaraja missed a hole-in-one by a hair’s breadth on the fourth and subsequently missed out on an eagle on the seventh where his chip hit the flag stick and deflected.

Thangaraja continued his surge on the back-nine with a short eagle conversion on the 12th and two tap-in birdies on the 14th and 15th. His only blemish was the bogey on the 17th.

Thanga, who represented Sri Lanka at the 2010 Asian Games, said, “It’s just been an unbelievable day. It’s only the third time I’ve shot a nine-under. This is my lowest round on the PGTI. My hitting was outstanding especially my driving. The brilliant start set up the round for me. I kept hitting it within five feet to create chances for myself. The only disappointment was missing out on two eagle opportunities on the front-nine.

“My driving has always been my weak point but since the second half of last year, I’ve made a massive improvement in that department of my game.

“It all began during the Asian Tour event in Bengaluru last year when I broke my driver during the practice round. When Shiv Kapur, my playing partner during the tournament, found out about it, he gifted me a driver of the same brand. My driving has just been terrific since then and my performances have got better. I would like to thank Shiv Kapur for his very kind gesture,” added Thangaraja, who knows that a win this week in Chennai will earn him a berth at next week’s Indian Open.

Shamim Khan, also a joint runner-up in Hyderabad last week, benefitted from a hot putter en route his 64. Shamim, who had finished tied third at the last edition of the event, drained a number of putts from 12 to 15 feet as he stitched together eight birdies at the expense of two bogeys.

Shamim, continuing his rich vein of form from last year, said, “I’ve had a few good rounds from the start of the year but am still looking for little more consistency. It’s all going to come down to putting here. I have a special connection with the MGC course in Chennai, having first qualified for the Indian tour from the 1997 Q School held here. That’s the reason I really want to win an event here.”

Defending champion Mukesh Kumar of Mhow was in tied third place with a round of four-under-66. Noida golfers Vikrant Chopra and Dipankar Kaushal also took a share of third.

Twenty-one-year-old rookie Shivnaren Srinivasan of Chennai, playing at his home course, fired an even-par-70 to be the highest placed among the six Tamil Nadu-based golfers at tied 26th.

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