HYDERABAD: Ludhiana’s Pukhraj Singh Gill and Gurugram’s Manu Gandas struck scores of seven-under 64 to hold the joint first round lead as the PGTI resumed its 2020-2021 season with the Golconda Masters Telangana Open 2021 Presented by Vooty & Haldi at the Hyderabad Golf Association (HGA) course.
While 24-year-old Pukhraj Singh Gill shot the best round of his professional career, 25-year-old Manu Gandas continued his hot streak having already posted five top-10s in the season.
The leading duo was one shot ahead of Mysuru’s Yashas Chandra (65). Interestingly, Pukhraj’s younger brother Digraj Singh Gill, who had an eagle-two on the 14th during his round, was tied for fourth with a score of 66 along with Noida’s Amardeep Malik.
Pukhraj Singh Gill, who turned professional in 2018, reaped the benefits of some terrific ball-striking as he bagged three birdies on the first six holes. He then had a quiet stretch till the 14th before going on a birdie blitz on the last four holes to end up with a bogey-free 64. After being in the bunker on the 17th, Gill salvaged a birdie with a quality up and down. On the 18th too, Pukhraj managed to pick up a birdie from a tough spot as he chipped-in after hitting his approach over the green.
Pukhraj said, “It was my best ball-striking day since I turned professional. My accuracy with the driver paid off as this course is playing tighter this time with the rough being up. I’ll look to repeat today’s tempo and swing thoughts going ahead. I made some smart lay-ups today and the chip-in birdie on the last hole was a bonus as I was looking for a par there.
“Playing a tournament after such a long gap of six months did feel a little different. All of us professionals have been practicing all this while which is not the same in terms of the mindset required for a tournament. But with a strong line-up of events on the PGTI till December, one looks forward to a lot of competitive golf in the next few months.
“I utilized the forced break by trying to work on my consistency. I’ve also worked at trying to find my natural swing, something that I’m comfortable with. I thus went back to the swing that I had during my amateur days when I used to strike it much better.”
Manu Gandas, who started from the 10th, was slow off the blocks, collecting two birdies and a bogey on the back-nine, but then turned it on with six birdies on the front-nine. Gandas sank a 22-footer on the third and made exceptional chip-putt birdies after hitting it over the green on the sixth and eighth.
“I’ve had some top results this season and I felt that I was just continuing from where I left before the season came to a halt. I hit it well and picked up birdies from some tricky situations today. I’ve shot a seven-under here at the HGA before so I’m quite at ease at this venue.
“I’ve been in good form in 2020-21 so I didn’t change much while working on my game in the last few months. I just made some minor adjustments,” said Gandas, who had a runner-up finish on the PGTI earlier this year.
Yashas Chandra mixed seven birdies with a bogey to be placed third at six-under 65. PGTI Order of Merit leader Karandeep Kochhar of Chandigarh and 2019 champion Chikkarangappa of Bengaluru fired scores of 67 to be tied sixth. Chandigarh’s Harendra Gupta, the winner of the inaugural edition in 2015, was joint 13th at 68.
Among the Hyderabad-based golfers, professional Mohd Azhar (69) and amateur Milind Soni (70) were well-placed at tied 20th and tied 28th respectively. Olympian and defending champion Udayan Mane carded an opening round of 74 to be placed tied 83rd.