Karandeep Kochhar set the bar at his home turf, the Chandigarh Golf Club, on the first day of the Rs 1.5 crore event, Jeev Milkha Singh Invitational on Thursday.
The 20-year-old Karandeep, who was the runner-up at the inaugural edition of the tournament last year, fired seven-under-65 to enjoy a one-shot lead over fellow city pro Ajeetesh Sandhu, Om Prakash Chouhan of Mhow and Delhi-based Himmat Singh Rai.
The host of the tournament, Jeev Milkha Singh made a steady start with an even-par-72 to be at tied 37th position.
Karandeep, one of the pre-tournament favorites, came out all guns blazing in round one as he raced to four-under over his first six holes thanks to some quality iron shots. After making a tough par save on the 16th, he stumbled with a bogey on the 17th. But he put that behind him quickly enough when he birdied the 18th.
Karandeep, who became the youngest player to win on the TATA Steel PGTI at the age of 17 years and five months while still an amateur in 2016, seemed to be inspired by a great par save on the first where he made an up and down from 70 yards. He thereafter produced more magic with his irons on the seventh and eighth to set up short birdie putts.
After ending with eight birdies and a lone bogey, the table topper said, “I’ve been working on my iron-play and it was the best aspect of my game today. I struggled off the tee and found myself in some difficult spots but managed to recover really well.
Himmat Singh Rai reaped the benefits of his recent stint in the United Kingdom where he played five events on the Jamega Tour. He struck a 66 in testing conditions in the morning session to be in a three-way tie for second place.
After round 1 Jeev said, “I made some course management errors and bad decisions today and also missed a few putts. But I’m happy with the way I managed to close it out at even-par.”
Rory Hie of Indonesia, the leading foreign name in the field, too shot a 72 to be tied 37th. The last year champion Chikkarangappa’s 73 placed the Bengaluru lad in tied 55th.
Panchkula-based Martendeya Kanishka Sinha was the second player to make a hole-in-one on Thursday. Sinha struck an ace on the 14th during his round of 74. He was placed tied 72nd.