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Mukesh takes one-shot lead

- Senior pro hits 4-under; Lahiri struggles
Mukesh Kumar, at the RCGC, on Wednesday. A Telegraph picture

Calcutta: It was a test of character and patience for the golfers at The Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC) course on Wednesday. The changed RCGC course has made life difficult for the top Indian pros as most of them found it tough to deal with the narrow fairways.

Rahil Gangjee put it aptly: “The course separates men from the boys. This is my home course but I must admit, this is the toughest I have played in.”

But the man who was laughing at the end of the day was Mukesh Kumar.

After Day I of the McLeod Russel Tour Championship, PGTI’s year-ending meet, the senior pro established a one-shot lead by finishing with a four-under 68. Close on his heels are Rolex Rankings leader Rashid Khan of Delhi, Manav Jaini, another Delhi golfer and Mohammed Zamal Hossain Mollah of Bangladesh.

The day did not begin well for the Mhow-based golfer though. Mukesh suffered an early setback when his tee shot on the first hole landed out of bounds and resulted in a bogey.

However, he got back to level-par with a birdie on the par-5 fourth hole after narrowly missing an eagle putt from 15 feet. The fourth-ranked golfer on the Rolex Rankings raised the tempo by landing his approach shot within a couple of inches of the pin for birdie on the eighth. Mukesh then sank a 10-footer to pick up another stroke on the ninth and make the turn at two-under.

The Mhow-based professional carried on the good work on the back-nine sinking a 15-feet birdie putt on the 12th and following that up with an eight feet conversion for his fifth birdie of the day on the 13th.

If Mukesh was all about poise, star attraction Anirban Lahiri struggled. By his own admission his driving was pathetic and putting also very ordinary. He finished with a round of 74 and if he wants to make a comeback he has to put in a lot of effort on Thursday.

“I have to card in the 60s at least to be in the mix but it will be very difficult on this course,” Lahiri, who is at tied 32nd, said.

Lahiri had a double bogey on the 14th hole after he found a water hazard and conceded a penalty shot. “That was really disappointing. Even on the 18th I had a bogey… Anyway I am looking forward to the next round. I have an early tee off on Thursday. So hopefully it will be something different,” Anirban, who is recovering from a bout of viral fever, said.

Rashid Khan with six birdies and three bogeys occupied joint second place at three-under-69. His approach shots stood out in Round I. “I was erratic but luckily I recovered well. But that’s how I play,” Rashid said.

Rashid was joined by fellow Delhi golfer Manav Jaini in tied second place. Jaini positioned his shots to perfection on Wednesday and putted well on the last five holes. His round was punctuated by four birdies and a bogey.

Mohammed Zamal Hossain Mollah’s score of 69 made it a three-way tie for second place. Zamal also shot four birdies and a bogey.

Delhi golfers Shamim Khan, Karan Vasudeva, Bangalore’s C Muniyappa, Ranjit Singh of Chandigarh, Sri Lankan Mithun Perera and Bangladeshi Md Shakhawat Hossain Sohel are in tied fifth position with matching scores of two-under-70.

Jyoti Randhawa and city-pro Gangjee are in tied 11th place at one-under-71 while another local favourite SSP Chowrasia is a further shot back in tied 17th place. “I have to pull up my socks,” Chowrasia said.