Delhi, 06 Mar 2013

Rookie Khalin Joshi shares lead with Thailandís Chapchai Nirat

Chiragh Kumar in joint fourth

Rookie Khalin Joshi got off to a dream debut on the Asian Tour with a six-under 66 on his first day of the SAIL-SBI Open presented by Incredible India, Ministry of Tourism, as he shared the lead with former champion and world record holder, Thailand’s Chapchai Nirat in the first round of the tournament that got underway at the fabulous Delhi Golf Club on Wednesday.

Chapchai and Joshi lead by one shot over Qualifying School winner Chan Kim of the United States.

Chapchai launched his quest to end a four-year winless and snared eight birdies against two bogeys in the morning session. In the afternoon he was joined by Joshi at the top. Joshi, the top Indian Amateur in 2012, turned pro at the start of the year and on Wednesday he had nine birdied against three bogeys on a day he called as ‘dream debut’.

Chiragh Kumar shot a solid 68 to share third place with Bangladeshi Siddikur while Shiv Kapur (69) failed to capitalise on his magnificent outward 29 when he came home in 40 after taking a quadruple bogey eight on the sixth hole. Manav Jaini, another DGC star, who has some excellent finishes in Asian Tour events at his home course, also carded a creditable 69.

Defending champion Anirban Lahiri started with a sedate one-under 71, while Rikard Karlberg champion in 2010 shot even par 72. Four-time Asian Tour winner, Gaganjeet Bhullar went three-over 75.

Khalin Joshi was ecstatic with his round. He said, “It was a great start, but I will take it. I putted really well today. I’ve been hitting the ball well the past few weeks but the putter was hot today, made quite a few. Hit a great tee shot on seven to two inches, wish it was a hole in one but it’s okay.”

The young Bangalorean added, “I’m going to approach the rest of the week like how I did today, just play within myself. This is the first week I am not playing with my driver. I’ll do that the whole week. Just keep the same attitude.”

Speaking of his fellow Bangalorean, Anirban Lahiri, the defending champion, Joshi said, “Anirban is a great friend of mine and I look up to him. I’m looking forward to doing something this week. It will mean the world to me, if I can win my first Asian Tour tournament as a pro. I’m looking forward to it.”

Joshi, who turned pro at the start of the season, added, “I feel I was ready to turn pro, so I did that, since I had some very seasons as an amateur. Last year, I was number one on the amateur tour. I played for Indian junior and amateur team for six years. Shot a 62 at my home course at the KGA in Bangalore last year. Finished third in the Nomura Cup which was a good thing. So, the decision to turn pro was natural.

The 29-year-old Chapchai, whose last victory was in the SAIL-SBI Open in 2009 when he set a new world record for 72-holes with his winning 32-under-par 256 total, wielded a hot putter to move up the leaderboard.

Chiragh Kumar, who lost his full playing rights after finishing 74th on the Order of Merit last season, was delighted to get into the title mix with a 68 which included five birdies against a lone dropped shot.

Chiragh, who has grown up at this course like Shiv Kapur, said, “It was a good round, a good start to the tournament. I had a few chances, which I missed out on but I’m not going to complain. 68 is a good round and I’m quite happy with the way I played. I hit the ball pretty good off the tee and my second shots were good as well and I putted pretty well. Overall, it was a great day. I hope it is a sign of things to come. “

On his first round, he said, “I made a few long putts today which feels good. The putts were between 15 and 25 feet.”

He did admit, “The other advantage I have this week is that I know this course pretty well having played here all my life. I’ve won a big event on this course back in 2010 and performed well at the 2011 Indian Open when I was runner-up.”

Md Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh, who honed his skills on the PGTI before making it big in Asia, joined Chiragh in joint fourth thanks to a bogey-free 68.

The three Indians in tied sixth were Shiv Kapur, Manav Jaini (both from the DGC) and Bangalore’s Abhishek Jha. The trio shot scores of three-under-69.

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