New Delhi, India, February 17: Robert-Jan Derksen of the Netherlands posted an opening six-under-par 66 to take the clubhouse lead at the Asian Tour’s season-opening Avantha Masters after the opening round was suspended due to darkness on Thursday.
Derksen enjoyed a blemish-free round for a single shot lead over England’s Mark Foster and Argentina’s Julio Zapata who signed for matching 67s at the €1.8 million (approximately US$2.3 million) showpiece event.
Australia’s Darren Beck is lying in second place on five-under-par through 13 holes while three-time Asian Tour winner Chapchai Nirat of Thailand carded a 68 to be among the six players bunched in equal fifth that include India’s Jeev Milkha Singh and Rashid Khan.
Play was delayed by more than three hours after the DLF Golf and Country was shrouded in heavy fog in the morning. A total of 66 players have yet to complete the first round and will resume at 7.15am local time tomorrow.
When play finally started, it was the Dutchman who made his move up the leaderboard with three birdies each in his front and back-nine.
Derksen, who teed off in the opening back-nine got his first birdie on hole 12 before adding another two on holes 17 and 18 to reach the turn in 33. He continued to mark his card with furthers birdies on holes three, six and nine to take the early bragging rights.
“It was a long day with the delay this morning but I have to say that it was worth the wait. I played steady, drove it nicely which is very important on this course and the putting was a lot better than what it has been the last few weeks because I have been struggling with that,” said Derksen
Chapchai, who established a 72-hole all-time scoring low record in India two years ago, is delighted to return to the country of his famous victory and staying in touch with the leaders after the opening round.
The Thai opened his campaign with a bogey on the par-four 10th. He recovered quickly with a birdie on the 11th hole but was set back again with another bogey on the par-four 13th.
However, Chapchai would go on to add three more birdies on the 14th, 15th and 18th holes to reach the turn in 34 before marking his inward nine with two bogeys against four birdies.
“Overall, it was a good opening score. The birdies in my closing two holes really helped a lot in pushing me up the leaderboard. India’s always a nice place to return to and I’m looking forward to another good round tomorrow,” said the 27-year-old Thai.
Meanwhile Khan, who is playing in his third international event since turning professional last October, showed that he can match up against the best despite being only 20 years old.
“I only felt nervous when I stepped up to the tee box for my opening shot. Once that got out of the way, I was able to play my normal game and it felt really good,” said Khan who was a prodigious amateur and winner of the silver medal in the team competition at the Asian Games in Guangzhou last year.
“I think it has been a long time since I shot a 68 in my opening round and so I’m really happy to be taking this score into my second round tomorrow,” added Khan.
Crowd favourite Singh opened his campaign remarkably despite still nursing a back injury and being impeded with a two-shot penalty for infringing a local rule on the par-four 13th.
The 39-year-old Indian got off well with a birdie on the par-three 11th but got into trouble on the 13th hole.
“I started off well with a 30 feet birdie putt on the 11th. I then ran into some trouble on the 13th where my drive hit the floodlight tower. I should’ve replayed that stroke as per the local rules but having overlooked that particular clause in the local rules, I went on to play my second shot from the spot where the ball had landed after rebounding off the pole. That error cost me a two-stroke penalty,” said Singh of his costly mistake which eventually resulted in a double bogey.
“The two-stroke penalty acted as a trigger for me to raise my game. At that point I decided to focus really hard and make the most of my opportunities. I hit it really well from there on. I closed the round on a high as I converted a monstrous 45 feet eagle putt on the ninth,” added Singh, who stormed home impressively with three birdies and an eagle-three on the closing ninth hole.
Photo - Asian Tour
Asian Tour GolfGreedy.com