Nov 14, 2019: Four Indian players led by Shiv Kapur were three shots behind clubhouse leader Thai Itthipat Buranatanyarat on the first day of the ninth edition of the US$400,000 Panasonic Open India. The 26-year-old Itthipat took advantage of his short nap while waiting for play to begin by firing an opening round eight-under-par 64, with seven birdies and an eagle against one bogey during his eight-under 64.
Itthipat’s 64 was followed by a 66 from Indonesian Danny Masrin, who like the leader, is looking for his maiden pro title on the Asian Tour. Kapur was Tied-third at 67 alongside three Indians Arjun Prasad, M Dharma and Shankar Das and Chinese Taipei’s Hung Chien-yao.
The trio of American Ben Geyer, Sri Lankan veteran Anura Rohana and Singaporean Jesse Yap, rounded off the Top-10 with cards of 68 each.
As for the ‘Big Three’, Atwal won the ‘first day’ with a round of 69 as Jeev Milkha Singh shot two-under 70 and Jyoti Randhawa marked his 300th Asian Tour appearance with an even par 72.
Three of the four Indians at Tied-third, Kapur, Das and Dharma were bogey free. Dharma missed a hole-in-one by inches as the ball bounced off the hole and stopped two feet beyond for a birdie. Prasad had one bogey and six birdies.
Kapur said, “It was good to come with a bogey free round but I missed scoring opportunities on Par-5s and managed just one birdie in four Par-5s. So that was a chance wasted.”
On the delay and the start from the middle of the course, Kapur added, “I have never started from the 15th in a tournament. (Waiting for long) was obviously unnerving, but don’t think it’s the first time this has happened. Have played golf enough to know this can happen, like the Singapore Open where you do a lot of sitting around or the Maybank when there is a lot of waiting during the rain delays so it’s kind of similar.”
“We all managed to entertain ourselves quite well in the morning, Jeev, Jyoti, Arjun, myself, Siddharth Semwal was doing card tricks for us and was quite an entertaining morning. We made the most of it but when but obviously when it’s time to play you have to get ready and it is an adjustment.”
Leader Itthipat said, “Today was one of those rare occasions where we played in a four-tee start. I think the only other time when I played like this was during an ADT event. But it was okay. I just needed to wear a mask and apart from that, it was business as usual. There was a long wait and it was almost after four hours that I got to tee off.”
Itthipat, who turned pro in 2014, has won three times on Asian Development Tour, including once this season, and is looking for his first win on Asian Tour.
Itthipat revealed, “I fell asleep once during that wait. I couldn’t really see where the ball was beyond 250 yards as I’m short-sighted so I had to rely on my caddie’s advice. But overall, it was okay. I managed to play well despite everything and I’m very proud of myself.”
Masrin, who like Itthipat started on the sixth, said, “It’s not usual to start my round in the middle of the golf course and I just take it as it is because I know the tournament organisers have to do whatever they can to get the tournament going. It turned out to be alright as I birdied that first hole and hit some good iron shots today. I managed to judge the rough pretty well today and made a few putts. The weather conditions didn’t really play up too much on my mind. It is what it is and I just played one shot at a time. We are in this together and trying to see where our balls end up.”
Itthipat started from the sixth tee as the tournament committee decided on a 4-Tee start following a four hour ten minute delay due to a fog cover bringing down the visibility at the Classic Golf and Country Club.
Only 60 players scheduled for the morning wave played their round, while the afternoon wave of 66 players will now start on Friday at 11 am, as the forecast suggested similar conditions with low visibility on Friday too. The players who played today will have a free day tomorrow.
The tournament committee decided to split the first round over two days with starts at 11 am from four different tees, first, sixth, tenth and fifteenth.