05 October 2021: Heritage and wandering peacocks make the Delhi Golf Club a unique experience. The 126 golfers in the field this week for the PGTI MP Cup will also have to contend with an unfamiliar course. The iconic DGC underwent a renovation at the hands of Gary Player, who has completed the redesigned course in 2019. Chikkarangappa, Ajay Baisoya, Rashid Khan and Manu Gandas enjoyed a great start to their week, shooting 67 for a one-stroke advantage after the opening round of the 14th event on the combined PGTI calendar for 2020-21.
Gulfam Pappan and Shravan Desai, who came close to a maiden victory in Srinagar, came up with a 68 on their cards.
Yuvraj Singh Sandhu continued to shine – he has six top tens and 12th place in his last ten outings. He started his week with a 69, including five straight birdies. Divyanshu Bajaj, who made an eagle two on the par-4 13th hole, Anil Bajrang Mane, Badal Hossain, Karan Pratap Singh, Khalin Joshi and Mohammad Sanju also shot 69 for a crowded bus of golfers at T7.
Chikkarangappa was three-under through five holes, but bogeys at seven and eleven dragged him back to two-under. But he took advantage of three of the four par-5 holes, securing three birdies over the last seven holes to earn a share of the lead. He made a birdie from 40 feet on the par-4 12th hole.
Ajay Baisoya has wounds to heal at the Delhi Golf Club. He was among a group of caddie golfers who were embroiled in a lengthy struggle for playing rights at the course. In 2019, a dharna at the gates ended in a ride to the police station, as they were detained briefly before being released without charges.
In the first round, Ajay began with a pair of birdies. But as he punctuated birdies with bogeys soon after, he found himself at even par through eleven holes, despite four birdies.
Unfazed, he mounted an assault. Ajay produced eagles on both the par-5 holes (14, 18) over the home stretch and a birdie on the par-3 12th hole for an emphatic finish to share the lead.
Manu Gandas is carrying the momentum of a smooth victory soon after the Tour resumed at the Hyderabad Golf Club. He started with three birdies in his first four holes, after going from the tenth tee. He also made back to back birdies at the 18th and the 1st holes for a solid start. His best one though came at the seventh, where he found the cup from 30 feet.
“I enjoyed a great day with the putter. I kept finding the hole from long range. Starting the day with a 25-feet birdie conversion on the 10th was a huge morale-booster. I also managed to get myself out of trouble from the rough on a few occasions. I’ve been playing consistent golf this season and am happy to carry forward the momentum this week,” said Gandas.
“The newly renovated DGC throws up its own set of challenges as the greens and the areas around it are quite different compared to what they were three years back when I played my last event here. The approach to the greens now has to be different,” he added.
Like Ajay Baisoya, Rashid Khan too has an axe to grind, as a prolonged struggle with the DGC coincided with his quest for a spot on the Indian team to the Olympics.
The Delhi golfer opened with a bogey on the tenth but grew out of it very quickly. Birdies at the 12th and 18th meant that he was under-par at the turn. Rashid shot four straight birdies from the third to ensure that he sat among the group at the top of the leaderboard.
“I’ve shot some good numbers over the past few events but have not finished well. But today’s round is better than my good scores from the last few events because today I played on a new layout at the DGC, something that I’ve not been used to,” explained Rashid.
“I had a slow start but the long birdie conversion on the third really got me going and set up the birdie run on the front-nine.”
Jyoti Randhawa and the Order of Merit leader Karandeep Kochhar shot scores of 71 to be tied 25th.
SSP Chawrasia (73), Shiv Kapur (74) and Olympian Udayan Mane (75) were toying with the knife at tied 50th, tied 61st and tied 76th respectively.