15 November 2019: Leader Itthipat Buranatanyarat who shot a sizzling eight-under 64 on Thursday stayed back in his hotel and worked out in the gym on Friday but his lead stayed intact at the Panasonic Open India.
However, another bunch of Indians cracked five-under 67s each to join a massive crowd at Tied-fifth which now has 11 players, with nine of them Indians.
In between the leader Itthipat and the crowd at Tied-fifth, Danny Masrin, sole second on Thursday, was joined by Australian veteran Terry Pilkadaris, a three-time winner on Asian Tour, and Myanmar’s Ye Htet Aung, an Asian Tour Qualifying School graduate who also plays on the Asian Development Tour.
On Friday the Asian Tour also announced that the event had been reduced to 54 holes, with the cut coming after 36 holes with the weather having forced delayed starts on Thursday and Friday.
With only the second half of the field teeing off in their first round at the Classic Golf and Country Club, no one shot better than 66.
Six more players, five of them Indians, joined the 11-man bunch at 67 and it included defending champion Khalin Joshi, seasoned and in-form Rashid Khan, promising Indian youngsters Karandeep Kochhar and Kshitij Naveed Kaul and a resurgent Vikrant Chopra.
They joined Shiv Kapur, Arjun Das, M Dharma and Shankar Das as Hung Chien-yao of Chinese Taipei and Wang Wei-Lun are the non-Indians in the group tied at fifth.
The presence of nine Indians in Top-15 increases the chances of an Indian winner for the eighth time in nine years of Panasonic Open India and none seemed more determined than Joshi, who earned his maiden Asian Tour event at Panasonic Open India last year.
Joshi, starting from the first, had seven birdies against two bogeys on ninth and eleventh, but he finished birdie-birdie. Joshi added, “I’m not really happy with my round, to be honest. I just played five holes well and the rest of it was mostly scrambling. I’m happy with my score but I have a lot more to do as far as my long-game so I am headed straight to the range immediately.”
“I’m defending my crown at a course where I’ve done well in the past with a title under my belt. So I’m quite confident. It was nice to finish with birdies on the last two holes.”
Kaul, who made his pro debut at the Panasonic Open in 2018 and finished Tied-sixth, was happy with his bogey-free round and said, “Today my hitting was good. Putting was also good, I didn’t hit any bad putts but just that I misread a few. Even the putts that I missed were good putts but they just didn’t go in. I have been working on my approach shots all year to hit them closer.”
Seasoned Rashid, who was second at the Asian Tour’s Classic Golf and Country Championship at the same course in September said, “I played solid and missed just one green today. I was four-under through nine holes and had a good chance of going low but then I had my only bad hole of the day, the second, where I misjudged the wind and landed my tee shot in the bunker which resulted in the only bogey of the day.
“The bogey put a break on my progress. Even though I had two more birdies with long putts, I lost the rhythm on the back-nine.”
Kochhar, who won a pro event as an amateur in 2016 said, “I’ve been hitting the ball well here, coming off a good week also in Chandigarh (domestic tour event). At Chandigarh, I had a similar round after creating chances there, too.
“Honestly I left a lot of putts, about 3-4 inside eight feet. Despite some missed putts there was nothing wrong with my decision making.”
Htet Aung fired his career’s best round of six-under-par 66. He got off to a blistering start with four birdies in his first five holes. He then mixed his card with a bogey on the par-four fourth and another three birdies on holes eighteen, two and seven.
Pilkadaris rediscovered his magic touch with his putter as he made just 27 putts to return with a 66 to also stay close to the Thai leader.
The second round will begin on Saturday with all 126 players being paired on the basis of their first round scores.
The second round will also see a 4-Tee start from first, sixth, tenth and fifteenth tees with the morning wave going out at 7 am and the afternoon wave taking off at 11.40 am.