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Lahiri hits 6-under, dominates Day I

- Jyoti snapping at Anirban’s heels, lies a stroke off the lead
Anirban Lahiri in action, on Thursday. A Telegraph picture

Calcutta: Anirban Lahiri has never won at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club. And it’s something which bugs the Bangalore-based professional.

Well, going by his sizzling form on Day One of the 2013 McLeod Russel Tour Championship, the year-ending event of the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI), he may well buck the trend this time.

On Thursday, Lahiri hit a sizzling six-under 66 to take a one-stroke lead over senior pro Jyoti Randhawa.

“After all these years of playing at the Royal, I think I am slowly getting a grip of the course. It’s a good start today and now I have to keep playing well,” Lahiri said after his round.

Lahiri’s putter was hot as he made birdie putts from 15 to 25 feet on the third, eighth and 17th holes.

The 26-year-old also hit it well by landing it within six feet for birdies on the ninth, 10th and 18th. Anirban, a winner of three titles in 2013 (one on Asian Tour and two on PGTI), capitalised on both par-5s, the fourth and 15th, after finding the green in two shots and setting up two-putt birdies.

“My drives were top-class today. This course is very tough. At some places, the fairway was narrowed down to 25 yards… If you don’t drive well then you are gone for good. Also the morning session was very windy… So keeping the ball on the fairway was difficult. Overall, it was a very good day for me,” Anirban said.

By his own admission, Anirban’s best was on the 17th. He putted a 25-footer downhill from left to right and it showed how good he was playing on Thursday.

“That was a superb putt. Hopefully I will continue to putt like this over the next three days,” he said.

Anirban was paired with Rashid Khan and S. Chikkarangappa and he said he enjoyed playing with them.

“It was more like a fun game and I never thought I was playing a high-pressure professional tournament. That helped me to play to my potential,” he said.

Close on the heels of Anirban was Jyoti. The senior pro was in rousing form, hitting eight birdies. “I had a top-5 finish on the Asian Tour recently. I’ve had some momentum going since that performance. I’ve been swinging well.

“However, my form has been a little patchy and I need to fire lower scores. I hit a lot of good shots and putted well. It’s great to be back in Calcutta since this is the city where I played my first competitive event as a sub-junior,” said the former Asia No. 1.

Abhinav Lohan of Faridabad and Lucknow’s Sanjay Kumar occupy joint third place at four-under-68.

Lohan’s bogey-free 68 featured an eagle and two birdies. His eagle on the fourth came as a result of a 40-feet conversion from the fringe.

“I am more than satisfied with my performance. Tomorrow onwards, I have to try to keep my shots on the fairway,” the golfer, who turned pro in 2011, said.

Sanjay, on the other hand, recorded five birdies and a bogey. He landed his approach shots within five feet on the first, 12th and 17th.

Rookies Khalin Joshi of Bangalore and Angad Cheema of Panchkula are a further shot behind in tied fifth place.

Rahil Gangjee finished round one in tied seventh place at two-under-70. He is currently the highest-placed among the professionals from Calcutta.

Defending champion and local favourite SSP Chowrasia, though, had a miserable day when everything went wrong.

He had two double bogeys on the eighth and 18th to return with a card of three-over. He is at tied 50th, but hasn’t lost hope yet. “Three more rounds to go… You never know what will happen,” he said.