Cricketer-turned-golfer James Morrison and Richie Ramsay fired identical five-under 66 to share the lead after the first round in the $1.25 million Hero Indian Open golf championship at the KGA course here Thursday.
Morrison and Ramsay, both playing on a sponsor’s invitation, held a one-shot lead over local hope Shiv Kapur, Panuphol Pittayarat and Chapchai Nirat of Thailand, Kalle Samooja and Jaakko Makitalo of Finland and Spaniard Javi Colomo.
Meanwhile, Shiv Kapur (67), Gangajeet Bhullar (68) and Shankar Das (68) kept themselves within striking distance of the leaders on a day that saw as many as 34 recording sub-par scores.
Also in the hunt were three other Indians, Honey Baisoya, Harendra P. Gupta and Chiragh Kumar, all returning cards of two-under 69 that put them in tied 14th position along with five others.
Playing from the back nine, Zaw Moe of Myanmar shot back-to-back eagles on holes 11 and 12 to hold the lead for most of the round before making double bogey on the par three eighth.
Ramsay, winner of the Omega European Masters in September which was sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour, turned in 34 with one eagle and one bogey.
The wind started to pick up late in the afternoon and so did Ramsay’s form as he returned with four birdies in his homeward nine.
“I kept it going on the front nine and played lovely on the back. I hit it nicely on the last few holes, but couldn’t make my putts. My putt made a horse shoe on 17 from five feet for birdie and I missed the one coming back.
“As long as you are hitting fairways, there are a lot of chances out there. The minute you are off the fairways then you are going to struggle. There was a little bit of breeze and crosswinds which made the fairways a lot narrower,” said the 29-year old Ramsay who has two European tour wins, including the Omega European Masters last month.
Morrison, a winner in Europe, enjoyed a solid stretch from the fourth hole where he went birdie, eagle and birdie on a course which suits his eye.
Kapur, who has three-top 10s on the Asian Tour this season, recovered from an early bogey as he rolled in five birdies including one on the last hole.
“If you told me I would shoot a 67 at the start of the day in this breeze, I would have taken it. Golfers are never happy and the way I struck it, I gave myself a lot of chances. I’ll take this as a start and hopefully build on this from here. I have played golf long enough to know you have good and bad days. I’m not going to think too much about it. I’m going to practice a little bit, put my feet up, eat some good food and relax,” said Kapur.
However, Chinnaswamy Muniyappa, the 2009 champion, had a wretched outing as he returned a seven-over 78. On the outward journey, he dropped three strokes on the par-five fifth hole, two on the ninth, and one each on the fourth, seventh and eighth to go seven over.
Muniyappa fared better on the back nine with birdies on the 10th, 15th and 16th, but blotted the record with a double-bogey on the seventh to complete an up-and-down round.
Defending champion David Gleeson from Australia returned a one-over par 72 round that contained three birdies and four bogeys that put him in tied 44th.
66 - James Morrison (Eng) and Richie Ramsay (Scot)
67 - Javi Colomo (Spain), Shiv Kapur (Ind), Zaw Moe (Myanmar), Panuphol Pittayarat (Thai), Kalle Samooja (Fin), Chapchai Nirat (Thai), Jaako Makitalo (Fin)
68 - Shankar Das (Ind), Gaganjeet Bhullar (Ind), Angelo Que (Phi), Jason Knutzon (US) 69 - Jonathan Moore (US), Namchok Tantipokhakul (Thai), Honey Baisoya (Ind), Harendra P. Gupta (Ind), Chiragh Kumar (Ind), Jarmo Sandelin (Swe), Thaworn Wiratchant (Thai), Mardan Mammat (Singapore)
70 - Hsu Chia-jen (Taipei), Martin Rominger (Sui), Simon Griffiths (Eng), Chawinroi Rungsrichai (Thai), Panuwat Muenlek (Thai), Himmat Rai (Ind), Pablo Harreria (Spain), Peter Hanson (Swe), Anirban Lahiri (Ind), Adam Groom (Aus), Scott Barr (Aus), Berry Henson (US) and Adilson da Silva (Brazil)
71 - Scott Hend (Aus), Koh Deng Shan (Singapore), Ajeetesh Sandhu (Ind), Ashok Kumar (Ind), Unho Park (Aus), Tim Stewart (Aus), Ross Bain (Sco), Arnold Vongvanij (Thai) and Kwanchai Tannin (Thai).