New Delhi:Jeev Milkha Singh turned in a personal best of seven-under 65 at the DGC to grab the second spot but it was his tee-off partner Chinese Liang Wen-Chong who set the course on fire with a record 12-under 60 for a massive five-stroke lead after the opening round of the 45th Indian Open on Thursday.
On a day when defending champion Jyoti Randhawa, targetting a fourth overall and third in a row title, stuttered to a two-over 74, Jeev, who has never won the event and by own admission uncomfortable at the Delhi Golf Club (DGC), bettered his previous personal best here by a stroke.
"The course is playing excellent. It is there for the taking. The greens are rolling well and the scoring today has been great. The greens were playing pure and true," Jeev said after sinking in five birdies and an eagle that was chipped-in from the bunker on the first hole.
The 10th tee starter said he shunned aggression for consistency and the difference in approach was perhaps the key to his best-ever card at the course, which he has always found difficult to negotiate.
"I was rock solid and consistent. I hit a lot of good bunkers and had 100 per cent sand saves. I must try and do what I did today and play to my best. I am not going to be aggressive like I was last time (at the Indian Masters) where I missed the cut. Just stick to 3-woods and play my game without getting aggressive," he said.
Indian-born Swede Daniel Chopra was a stroke adrift of Jeev at tied third. Chopra, who returned to the DGC after a seven-year gap for the USD one million tournament, stroked in four birdies before rounding off his day on a resounding note with an 18th hole eagle.
Even as Jeev and Chopra kept the local fans enthralled, against all expectations, it was Wen-Chong, a seven-time winner on the Chinese Tour, who stunned one and all by bettering the previous course record of 10-under set last year by Shiv Kapur, absent from this edition due to his European Tour commitments.
"Everything worked well today, it was a good round. It can be quite intimidating standing on the tee looking at the narrow fairways ahead but I knew what to do," was Wen-Chong's modest description of his flawless round that had 12 birdies, eight of them in the front nine.
Jeev and Wen-Chong teed off together and the Indian pro could not help expressing astonishment at the Chinese's sensational effort.
"It was incredible! That's the word for it. Actually I had no idea. I saw him at around seven-under when he came to the 14th hole. Then I didn't hear anything about him. Then at the 18th after I finished I hear he was 12-under. I was shocked," Jeev said.
In contrast, Randhawa's day was nothing short of a nightmare as he kicked off his quest for a hat-trick of titles in the worst possible manner. The Delhi-pro will have to put up a vastly improved show in the coming rounds to claw his way back on the leader-board, where he currently lies tied 94th. Among the other notable Indian performers, Mukesh Kumar shot a 68 for a share of the ninth spot. Mukesh sank in five birdies against a bogey to start his campaign on a positive note.
Veteran Gaurav Ghei was left to rue a triple bogey on the ninth that left him a stroke behind Mukesh at tied 16th.
Indian Masters' champion and Chopra's tee-off partner SSP Chowrasia, who is battling a right wrist injury, was two-over after the first round which placed him way down the leader-board at the tied 94th.
New Zealand star Mark Brown, who teed off alongside Chowrasia and Chopra, was tied for the 37th spot after turning in a one-under 71. Brown has a fine record in India having won the SAIL Open and the European Tour's Indian Masters earlier this year.