Hangzhou, China, 28-09-2023
Anirban Lahiri shot an opening round of seven-under 65 to be tied ninth in the individual event at the Asian Games; The Indian Men's Team were placed tied fifth
By V Krishnaswamy
India’s top stars Aditi Ashok and Anirban Lahiri got off to solid starts in the first round of the golf competition at the 19th Asian Games at West Lake International course.
Aditi compiled a bogey free 5-under to be tied second, two behind the Japanese amateur Saki Baba (65), while Anirban Lahiri, gunning for the top spot among men double bogeyed the 18th hole to drop from 9-under to 7-under and slipped to Tied-ninth.
Lahiri was four shots behind Korean amateur, Jang Yu-bin, who shot a stunning 12 birdies and one bogey on a day of low scores with little wind and accessible greens.
The Indian men were tied fifth while the women were fifth by themselves.
Indian men have not won a gold medal since 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, while the women have never won a medal in golf at the Asian Games. Lahiri is the only member from the contingent of seven to have a medal from a previous Games, a team silver in 2006 in Doha.
India’s other men players were SSP Chawrasia, whose 5-under 67 included four birdies and an eagle against one bogey and he was T-18. Shubhankar Sharma (68) was T-22 and he had six birdies and a double bogey on Par-4 14th, while Khalin Joshi (70) was T-32. Joshi, however, had a sensational albatross on Par-5 fifth. He had four other birdies, but also dropped two bogeys and like Lahiri, he had a double bogey on Par-4 18th.
Indian men, who last won a medal at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, 2010 are Tied-fifth, but 10 shots behind the fancied Korean, who have two PGA winners, Si Woo Kim and Sungjae Im, in their team.
Even though Korea has two PGA Tour winners, it was an amateur, Jang Yu-bin, who held the spotlight with 12 birdies and one bogey in his 61. Lying second behind Jang was Hong Kong’s Taichi Kho who produced the best round of his life with a 10-under 62.
India’s other women players had modest rounds in comparison. Pranavi Urs at 1-under 71 was T-17 and amateur, Avani Prashanth (72) was T-21.
The Indian women’s team was lying fifth as China and Japan were tied for first at 10-under 134 as the scores of the two best from the team of three count for team medals. Thailand (8-under) was third and Korea (7-under) was fourth as India at 6-under, comprising 5-under from Aditi, was fifth.
For the team medals, the best two individual scores of each team count.
The world No. 47, Aditi missed an Olympic medal by one stroke in Tokyo two years ago and she also began with a five-under 67. She was however disappointed that her dad, Ashok, who does the job of being her caddie on LPGA would not be able to carry her clubs in Hangzhou. However, her mother, Maheshwari, who often does the job in the absence of her father, was on the bag at Tokyo.
"Dad's here but just walking," Ashok said. "We thought our own caddies were allowed, but no, everyone has to use local caddies. But I think that's good in a way, too."
Teeing off from the 10th hole while playing with Saki Baba, Aditi had seven pars to start with before she birdied the 17th and holed her approach shot for a birdie on Par-4 18th. She added a birdie on first to make it three in a row. She added birdies on the third and eighth to get to five-under.
Others in a tie for second with Yin and Aditi were World number 13 Lin Xiyu and 143rd-ranked Liu Yu made a hat-trick of 67s for China's golfers. The fifth player in tied second was Thailand's Yubol Arpichaya.
While Saki Baba (65) took the lead, China’s Yin Ruoning, who is celebrating her 21st birthday, rode on home support for a bogey-free 67 that out her in Tied second place with four others in Hangzhou.
Yin, who was World No. 1 till a week but lost the ranking to American Lilia Vu. At No. 2 in the world she is the highest ranked player in the field.
Saki Baba, who won the 2022 US Amateur Championship, is just 18 and attacked the course fearlessly. She recorded nine birdies against two bogeys to overshadow this year's Women's US PGA Championship winner, Yin.
Yuka Saso won Asian Games gold representing the Philippines in 2018, when it was exclusively an amateur tournament, and went on to win the US Open in 2021. Saso, who now plays for Japan, is absent this year but diminutive amateur Rianne Malixi picked up the baton for the Philippines with a four-under 68.
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