| Jyoti Randhawa hits his second shot on Day I of the BMW Asian Open at the Ta Shee Golf and Country Club in Taipei Thursday. (AFP)
Tao Yuan (Taiwan): India’s Jyoti Randhawa, a three-time winner on the Asian PGA Tour and a class act even at 40, made no mistake in shooting off to a fine start at the Asian Open with a seven-under 65 to lead the field in the opening round Thursday.
Randhawa gave Padraig Harrington little chance, though the Irish Ryder Cup winner carded a flawless six-under 66 in wet conditions on the Ta Shee Country Club course. Harrington ended the first round of the opening event of the 2003 European Tour season just behind Randhawa.
Randhawa, in going about to claim the fourth title win, had a brilliant first round that included an eagle three at the par five sixth hole. “It was a great ball-striking day and I also putted really well which I guess was the key today,” said Randhawa. “My putter was just hot and after the eagle on the sixth it just added the momentum I needed.”
Randhawa was fifth behind Harrington in last October’s Links Championship in Scotland and it was this result in a world class field that the champion Indian golfer is hoping will now give him the confidence to topple the Irishman this week in Taiwan.
“Playing in Scotland, where there were the top 25 players in the world in the field, gave me a lot of confidence,” said Randhawa.
“It was my biggest career cheque of 170,000 euros ($ 170,500) and it put me in a comfort zone and once you’ve finished up there well in a European Tour event, it gives you confidence and mental ability to do it time and time again,” said Randhawa.
Harrington shares second place with Germany’s Sven Struver and in-form Dutch golfer, Maarten Lafeber.
Harrington is competing in Taiwan for the first time and after a disappointing showing in last fortnight’s European Tour season swansong Volvo Masters, the world number eight was delighted to produce a sub par scoring display.
“I am obviously pleased and more pleased with three birdies in the first six holes,” said Harrington who was second in last season’s European Tour money list. “The weather was bad, it was raining and it was blowing, and to make birdies in those conditions makes me pleased with myself and I just had a good day.
“I hit my irons well but I don’t have any expectations for the next three days. I am pleased with the way I played. It wasn’t quite effortless but more a comfortable six under.”
Struver put an indifferent season in Europe behind him with a similarly flawless six-under-par 66.
The 35-year-old triple European Tour winner endured a miserable 2002 European season, missing 15 of 25 halfway cuts including his closing six events to finish in 106th place on the Order of Merit, his poorest effort in a decade.
“I put every week behind me because I’ve had a bad run before missing something like 14 cuts in a row some six or seven years ago and suddenly ‘bang’, I win a tournament,” said Struver.
“Then everyone starts asking me ‘where’s this one coming from'’
“But when you play well like I did today you get yourself in a zone but it’s frustrating that it hasn’t happened all the time for me.”
Lafeber celebrated his recent 32nd birthday by again reminding observers he is close to a first Tour victory after dropping just one stroke in his 66.
The Eindhoven-born golfer finished 49th on the 2002 European Tour Order of Merit after a number of eye-catching results including last month’s Lancome Trophy when he shared the lead heading to the final round.
Five players — the Swedish duo of Henrik Nystrom and Jarmo Sandelin, the Asian Open champion, plus South African Des Terblanche, American Andrew Pitts and Simon Yates, the Thai-based Scot — are tied in fifth place at five under par.
American John Daly managed an eagle and three birdies in a round of a two-under-par 70 less than a day after entertaining guests at a gala dinner Wednesday night with two tracks off his forthcoming CD album.
Daly’s first album titled ‘My Life’ is being released on November 25 through his www.thelion.cc website.
Daly’s eagle, when he hit a driver and then a two iron from 261 yards to 12 feet, was the first eagle of the 2003 European Tour season while Ireland’s Peter Lawrie recorded the official first birdie in his score of 71.