Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Gaurav Ghei, Shamim Khan take top honours on day one in Noida


Local lad Gaurav Pratap Singh shines, shares third spot with Shankar Das


Noida, February 7, 2017: Gaurav Ghei, one of Indian golf’s all-time greats, rolled back the years as he brought in a card of six-under-66 in the first round of the PGTI’s 2017 season-opener, the PGTI Players Championship at Noida Golf Course.

Ghei, the first Indian to appear at a Major back in 1997 when he played the British Open, took top honours on day one in Noida along with another Delhi golfer Shamim Khan.

Noida’s Gaurav Pratap Singh and Kolkata’s Shankar Das too had a good outing on day one of the new season as they posted scores of 67 to be one off the pace in tied third.

Gaurav Ghei, a three-time Asian Tour winner, had to earn his PGTI card through the qualifying school this year as he had finished outside the top-60 in 2016. The seasoned professional brought all his experience to the fore to strike a masterly 66 in Noida on a windy day.

On a day that also saw bright sunshine but colder weather than expected, Ghei had a disastrous start when he double-bogeyed the 12th. However, he rallied with eight birdies thereafter that included six conversions from a range of 10 to 20 feet. He also drained a 30-footer to save par from a difficult position on the seventh.

Ghei said, “It’s one of my best rounds in recent memory. I guess it was one of those days when all the putts seemed to find the hole. I had a bad start with the double-bogey but came back really well.

“I’ve not had great results over the last three seasons on the PGTI, so I came here with no expectations. But this round provides me the ideal start to the new season,” added Ghei.

Shamim Khan, who in 2016, narrowly missed out on winning his second PGTI Order of Merit crown, before finally settling for second place in the rankings, carried on from where he left in the last season.

Shamim breezed through the first seven holes with four birdies against his name which included two long conversions. The experienced 38-year-old, a winner of 12 titles, added three more birdies at the expense of a solitary bogey in the second half of his round.

“I was delighted to begin the year with a 25-feet birdie conversion on the 10th, which was my starting hole. The round just kept getting better as I went on. The four birdies on the first seven holes were a real confidence-booster.

“I used my short-irons well as there was a lot of run for the ball on the fairways. I also ended up with three birdie conversions from a range of 12 to 25 feet.

“I changed my golf set towards the end of last year and that has been a major contributing factor to my good results in recent events. This week I feel I also have the advantage of knowing the course well having played quite a few rounds here over the last one month,” said Shamim.

Shankar Das, another former PGTI Order of Merit champion, like Shamim, dazzled with four birdies on the back-nine before stumbling with bogeys on the third and fifth, both par-3s. However, he came roaring back, closing the day with a hat-trick of birdies on the last three holes.

Shankar, who finished 16th in the Order of Merit last year with eight top-10s, said, “I’m glad to have posted a 67 since I arrived in Delhi only last night and therefore didn’t get any practice at the Noida Golf Course.

“I had a decent 2016 season which could’ve been much better had I been totally fit. A lower back injury suffered while playing football in my childhood came back to trouble me last year.

“But I’m feeling much fitter now having worked with a physiotherapist over the last two months. I’m now looking forward to playing to my potential this year.”

Gaurav Pratap Singh used the local knowledge to his advantage at his home course as he returned a 67 which featured six birdies and a lone bogey. Gaurav, a former winner on the PGTI, closed the day with a flurry of birdies on the seventh, eighth and ninth.

Gaurav said, “I landed it close and didn’t leave myself too many long putts. I was also good on the par-5s making birdies on three out of four. I finished 20th in the PGTI Order of Merit last year and the focus this year would be to further improve my position.”  

Australia’s Kunal Bhasin, Chandigarh’s Ajeetesh Sandhu, Abhinav Lohan of Faridabad and Gurgaon-based Pranav Kaul were bunched together in tied fifth with scores of 68.

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