Shamim takes joint-lead in Gurgaon

Shamim Khan shares lead at five-under 67 in the first round of the Johnnie Walker Classic Golf in Gurgaon

updated: February 28, 2008 14:59 IST
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Jeev Milkha Singh, who has been used as the face of the tournament, spoilt what could have been a brilliant round over a horrendous three-hole stretch and yet finished with a four-under 68 in the first round of the Johnnie Walker Classic here Thursday.

It was a fine day for the Indians, with Shamim Khan sharing the lead at five-under 67, and Rahil Gangjee joining Jeev at 68 with two birdies in the last four holes on a day when the conditions were excellent for scoring at the par-72 DLF Golf and Country Club.

Placed at six-under after 15 holes, Jeev may well have been looking at a possible seven-under or even better before he hit the roadblock. He missed a two-footer par putt and had a bogey on the 16th and followed it with another one on the 17th with a needlessly aggressive drive. Then his slightly long second shot on the 18th landed in the bunker and a bad lie cost him a birdie attempt.

As Shamim shared the lead with Argentine Daniel Vancsik (67), the Indians had a great day with Shiv Kapur, Arjun Atwal and Arjun Singh tied 14th at three-under 69.

Jyoti Randhawa and Gaurav Ghei turned in two-under 70 each to be tied 24th, while India's latest poster boy, S.S.P. Chowrasia was at even par as was Gaganjeet Bhullar, who recovered from being four-over after first five holes, and Digvijay Singh. Overall, 11 of the 18 Indians who made the field shot par or under for the first round.

The toast of the day was 30-year-old Shamim who started off the season with top-10 finishes in each of the three domestic events he has played in, among top three in two of them.

"Chowrasia is an old friend of mine. It is true I am inspired by him as I have played a lot with him and it has set the tone for us to do well in international events at home," said the shy, soft-spoken Khan, who has just one title in his 14-year-long professional career.

"My driving was very good and I took just 24 putts for the round," said Khan who had some long birdie putts, including a 25-footer on the 11th after starting from the tenth.

Vancsik, who shared the lead with Khan, claimed his maiden European Tour title only last year at the Madeira Islands Open last year. Vancsik had five birdies, an eagle and two bogeys.

Jeev was still seething at his finish when he met the media.

"I played solid 15 holes. Then I missed a small putt on 16. These greens are tough as they have a lot of grain. On 17 I was aggressive and I want to think about my game plan there. I could drive the green and I went for it. I got a bad break when it hit the cart path and went well over the green. I hit a good second shot but it ended in a hazard, just rolling in. I had a five (bogey) there and last hole was a disappointment. I had just 190 to the hole, but hit into the bunker and hit a bad bunker shot and missed that, too."

Yet, he managed to look at positive side: "I'm happy with my first round 68, and there're three more days to go."

The 11-man group at 68 in tied third had five Australians led by top draw Adam Scott besides whom there was little known caddie-turned-pro James Kamte, the first black South African to hold a full European Tour card in 30 years.

An ailing Kapur, who was playing his first round in 10 days - because of his sister's wedding and a flu that had laid him low in the last four days - even thought of pulling out.

Atwal, who is hoping the stint in Asia will help him find the rhythm to get back to the world's elite zone in US PGA Tour, had five birdies and two bogeys.

Among the marquee names, Vijay Singh came back with a 70 and said he was disappointed with his putting, but Colin Montgomerie struggled with a two-over 74 as did Paul McGinley. The flashy Ian Poulter had three doubles in his 76, but his silk orange-gold attire did attract a lot of attention.