PANCHKULA: Akshay Sharma of Chandigarh celebrated the resumption of events on the PGTI with some fireworks of his own as he shot a blistering eight-under-64 to take the round one honours at the TATA Steel PGTI Players Championship 2020 Presented by Panchkula Golf Club. Asian Tour regular Chikkarangappa of Bengaluru occupied second place at six-under-66.
The tournament has a unique format as it is being played across two venues in close proximity – Panchkula Golf Club (in Haryana) and Chandigarh Golf Club – both located in the Chandigarh Tricity region. The format for the event is as follows: One half of the field will play their first round at Panchkula while the other half will play their first round at Chandigarh. In round two both the halves of the field will switch venues. The third and fourth rounds will only be played at Panchkula.
While the two leading scores came from the Panchkula Golf Club, Kolkata’s Sunit Chowrasia recorded the day’s best score at Chandigarh Golf Club, a five-under-67, to occupy third place on the leaderboard.
Akshay Sharma, a former winner on the PGTI in 2018, was delighted to get off the blocks with an error-free round. The 30-year-old’s good placement on the fairways and greens at Panchkula set up five birdie putts within a range of three to four feet for him, which he went on to convert. He also sank three long birdie putts of 12 to 15 feet. Akshay said, “I was quite accurate today as I found all fairways and made 17 greens in regulation. It got a little windy on the back-nine but I still managed five birdies there thanks to my good ball-striking.
“Playing at Panchkula was the bigger challenge for me as Chandigarh is my home course. I didn’t expect to go so low here, so this score is like a bonus for me as I’m confident of doing well in Chandigarh tomorrow.
“This was my first competitive round in almost eight months like most other golfers playing this event. However, I didn’t feel rusty as I had been regularly playing pro-pool rounds with fellow Chandigarh professionals during the past few months. Those rounds had provided all of us some kind of simulation of competitive golf when pro events were not taking place. I also worked a lot on my fitness and mental preparation during the forced season break and that seems to be showing results now.”
Chikkarangappa, a 13-time winner on the PGTI, also got off to a splendid start on Wednesday but had a contrasting round as compared to Akshay’s. Chikka sank nine birdies in exchange for three bogeys in a round where he made some tremendous recoveries after finding the hazard or the trees on at least four occasions. He also performed well with the putter draining four birdies from a range of 12 to 15 feet.
Chikka said, “I scrambled well today, made some quality up and downs and holed some tricky putts from 13 to 14 feet. The highlight of my round though would be the par save on the 11th where I found my ball in the hazard and struck a couple of good shots from there to salvage the hole. That gave me the momentum to pick up three more birdies thereafter.
“It will now be about adapting well to totally different playing conditions as I switch venues on successive days, playing in Chandigarh in round two where longer clubs will be the key and then getting back to Panchkula for the last two rounds.”
While Sunit Chowrasia produced the best effort at Chandigarh with his six birdies and a solitary bogey, local favourite Karandeep Kochhar shot a 68 at the same venue to be tied fourth along with Gurugram’s Manu Gandas.Among the prominent names, Chandigarh’s Aadil Bedi and Patna’s Aman Raj were tied sixth with scores of 69, Delhi-based Rashid Khan (70) was tied 13th, Udayan Mane (71) of Pune, the PGTI Order of Merit leader was tied 20th, Chandigarh’s Ajeetesh Sandhu (72) was tied 29th and Khalin Joshi (74) and Viraj Madappa (74) were both tied 47th.