Local favourite Jeev Milkha Singh and world number five Adam Scott dropped strokes late in their rounds to leave a pair of unheralded players at the top of the leaderboard after the opening round of the Johnnie Walker Classic today.
Singh bogeyed two of the last three holes while Scott made a double bogey at the 16th, leaving them on four-under-par 68s at DLF Golf and Country Club near Delhi, one shot behind co-leaders Shamim Khan of India and Daniel Vancsik of Argentina.
Singh appeared to be in good shape after picking up his sixth birdie of the day at the 15th to move into sole possession of the lead on six under.
But the Indian ace missed a short putt at the next to drop his first shot of the day and bogeyed the 17th as well after putting his second shot into the water hazard.
He could still have drawn level with Khan and Vancsik with a birdie at the par-five 18 but had to settle for par after finding a bunker with his second shot.
“That’s okay, there are still three more days,” said the 2006 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner.
“It all comes down to the putting but there are three more days to go, there is a lot of game left and there are so many good players in the field. We’ll see what happens.”
Scott was handily placed at five under with three holes to play when he dropped his only strokes of the day after putting his tee shot at the par-three 16th into the water.
However, the Australian recovered with a birdie at the 17th which put him into a tie for third place with Singh and nine other golfers on four under.
“I’m very pleased with how I played today,” said Scott.
“I played very well and had one poor shot, but I don’t think that it really spoilt the round.
“I am in a really good position. It is pretty bunched up at the top and I think it will spread out.”
Khan and Vancsik have the edge on the rest of the field after firing rounds of 67 in the morning.
Vancsik made an eagle at his final hole of the day, the ninth, to move to five under after a round that also included five birdies and two bogeys and he was joined on that mark later by Khan, who made the fifth birdie of a bogey-free round on his final hole.
“I played very well and my putting was very good. I took only 24 putts,” said Khan, a 29-year-old Delhi native.
“I’m concentrating on my game and will take it one step at a time.
“I’m really happy that in a star-studded field, I’m at the top of the leaderboard. I can’t explain it in words.”
Joining Singh and Scott on four under were Mark Foster, Rahil Gangjee of India, James Kamte of South Africa, American Jason Knutzon, Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen, Taichiro Kiyota of Japan and Australians Greg Chalmers, Paul Sheehan and Unho Park.
Foster was especially pleased to card a good round after failing to make the cut in his last three European Tour events.
“It’s been a frustrating start to the year as I’ve only made one cut in Abu Dhabi. I’ve played three tournaments, played well in all of them, but just didn’t do well,” the Worksop native said.
“I came out here not too down but I just wanted to get some good scores under my belt.
“I took a long break in the winter, which I’ve never done before, and probably didn’t quite get myself good enough.”
World number 11 Vijay Singh is within striking distance of the leaders after making three birdies on his back nine to finish his opening round on a two-under 70 while Colin Montgomerie is at two over after an up-and-down round that featured two birdies and four bogeys.
But Ian Poulter has plenty of work to do on Friday to survive the cut after carding a four-over 76 that featured three double-bogeys.
“I shot 11 pars, three birdies and unfortunately, I shot four over par, that’s golf,” said an annoyed Poulter after his disappointing round.