Bengaluru: Chandigarh’s Karandeep Kochhar (pictured above), Om Prakash Chouhan of Mhow and Delhi’s Arun Kumar were tied for the first round lead at five-under-67 at the Bengaluru Open Golf Championship 2019 at the Karnataka Golf Association (KGA) course on Tuesday (December 17).

The trio consisting of Bengaluru’s Rahil Gangjee, Delhi’s Kapil Kumar and Gurugram’s Abhishek Kuhar were in joint fourth, one shot behind the leaders at the Rs 40 lakh event which is also the penultimate leg of the 2019 TATA Steel PGTI season.

Karandeep has enjoyed a fruitful season so far with four top-10s on the PGTI and four top-20s on the Asian Tour where he plays on a country exemption. The 20-year-old continued his hot form on day one in Bengaluru making an eagle and four birdies at the cost of a lone bogey.

The tall and lanky Kochhar started off with an exceptional par on the 11th where he got out of trouble with a brilliant chip to five feet. Karandeep, the youngest ever player to win on the PGTI at age 17 years and five months while still an amateur in 2016, drained his first birdie of the day on the 17th landing it within five feet once again. 

Karandeep, currently in seventh on the PGTI Order of Merit, made a push up the leaderboard when he holed his second shot from 35 yards for eagle on the first hole. Two birdies and a bogey followed over the next four holes before Kochhar sank a mammoth 35-footer for his last birdie of the day on the sixth.

Arun Kumar

Karandeep said, “I did well through the round and had my opportunities on the last three holes as well but misread a couple of putts there. It’s been an extremely consistent season for me. I hope to continue in this fashion over the last two weeks of the season. 

“Today’s round reminded me of my second round in Mauritius at the Asian Tour event two weeks back. I had to negotiate similar windy conditions on that occasion and played a very good round there too. The good par save on the 11th was crucial as it helped me avoid an early bogey that could’ve been telling.”

Om Prakash, a five-time winner on the PGTI, who was off-colour by his own standards at last week’s event in Kolkata where he finished outside the top-20, went bogey-free on Tuesday. Chouhan’s precise ball-striking saw him set up three of his birdies within five feet of the flag. ‘OP’, as he is often referred to, closed the day on a high with birdies on his last two holes, the 17th and 18th.

Chouhan said, “The season’s not been up to my expectations. I’m 17th in the PGTI Rankings at the moment. At the end of the season I want to get somewhere close to my last year’s career-best PGTI Order of Merit ranking of fourth. My hitting was good today but a lot of work needs to be done as far as my putting is concerned.

“The rough is not much of a problem here so putting I feel will hold the key this week.”

Arun, playing only his second event on the PGTI this year, also had an error-free day. The 37-year-old, who is among an elite list of ‘A’ category teaching professionals in India, made all fairways and 17 greens in regulation to shoot his career-best score.

Om Prakash

Arun hit his approach shots and irons well to produce three short birdie conversions. The highlight of his round was his 3-wood approach from 235 yards on the fifth that stopped just a foot from the pin and earned him an eagle.

Arun said, “I’m delighted with my effort as it was only at the start of this year that I decided to focus on playing professional golf rather than coaching which had been my bread and butter for many years. It was a big decision for me to make but I was totally committed to it.

“Playing three PGTI Feeder Tour events this year helped sharpen some aspects of my game and got me ready for the PGTI’s main tour. Today my hitting and chipping created all the chances for me and helped me shoot a low number, my best ever,” added Arun, who turned professional in 2015.

Defending champion Anura Rohana of Sri Lanka struck a 69 to be tied seventh while Pune-based Udayan Mane as well as local lads Syed Saqib Ahmed, Trishul Chinnappa and amateur Akshay Neranjen were a further shot back in tied 15th.

Gurugram-based Veer Ahlawat, the highest-ranked player in the field, being third in the PGTI Order of Merit, shot a 77 to be tied 94th.