Golf: Thailand's Itthipat retains lead but Joshi keeps his hopes alive at Panasonic Open

Gurugram, November 15, 2019

Defending champion Khalin Joshi carded five-under 67 to keep his hopes alive as he joined eight other Indians at tied-fifth place even as Thailand’s Itthipat Buranatanyarat, who had fired an eight-under 64, emerged leader after the first round of the Panasonic Open India at the Classic Golf and Country Club near here today.
Myanmar’s Ye Htet Aung, Australia’s Terry Pilkadaris and Indonesia’s Danny Masrin with identical rounds of six-under 66 were at the joint second place.
Htet Aung fired his career’s best round of six-under-par 66. He got off to a blistering start with four birdies in his first five holes. He then mixed his card with a bogey on the par-four fourth and another three birdies on holes eighteen, two and seven.
Pilkadaris rediscovered his magic touch with his putter as he made just 27 putts to return with a 66 to also stay close to the Thai leader.
The first round of the Panasonic Open India resumed at 11 am with the 66 players, who were scheduled for the afternoon rounds yesterday, beginning their campaign. In view of the weather conditions, the tournament has been reduced to a 54-hole event.
A four-tee start has again been scheduled for the second round on Saturday so that it can be completed in time for the third and final round which will be played on Sunday.
Six more players, five of them Indians, joined the 11-man bunch at 67 and it included defending champion Khalin Joshi, seasoned and in-form Rashid Khan, promising youngsters Karandeep Kochhar and Kshitij Naveed Kaul and a resurgent Vikrant Chopra.
They joined Shiv Kapur, Arjun Das, M Dharma and Shankar Das as Hung Chien-yao of Chinese Taipei and Wang Wei-Lun are the non-Indians in the group tied at fifth.
The presence of nine Indians in the Top 15 increases the chances of an Indian winner for the eighth time in nine years of the Panasonic Open India and none seemed more determined than Joshi.
Joshi opened with a flourish, hitting birdies on three of his first four holes, including a chip-in on the third and a superb approach from 100 yards on the fourth that set up a tap-in. He, however, dropped a couple of strokes midway through his round before  salvaging his round with birdies on his last two holes.
“I’m not really happy with my round. I just played five holes well and the rest of it was mostly scrambling. I’m happy with my score but I have a lot more to do as far as my long-game is concerned. That’s the reason I headed straight to the range immediately after my round. I need to sort out a few things with my ball-striking," Joshi said afterwards.
“I’m defending my title at a course where I’ve done well in the past with a title under my belt. So I’m quite confident in that sense. After a great start, the two bogeys on the ninth and 11th were disappointing as I was in a good position on both holes. However, it was nice to finish with birdies on the last two holes," he said.
Rashid Khan, who has already sealed his card for the Asian Tour next year,  was four-under through nine holes but then had his only bogey of the day on the second., 
Rashid, a winner of two events on the PGTI this year, said, “I have some good memories from my last Asian Tour event here at the Classic in September where I finished second. However, I’m striking it better this time around and my confidence is higher as compared to the last event. I’m also making more putts as compared to the event in September.”
Karandeep Kochhar also  hit six birdies and a bogey. He created a lot of chances for himself with a high percentage of fairways found and greens in regulation. He however missed birdies from within 10 feet on four occasions.
“Overall, despite some missed putts today, there was nothing wrong with my decision-making. I hit the putts exactly like I wanted to, it’s just that the ball didn’t do what I thought it would do but I can live with that,"  said Kochhar, who  had a tied second finish  in this  tournament  in 2017.
"Hopefully, I can make some more putts tomorrow. If I keep hitting the ball like I am now I’ll give myself some more chances of doing well here over the next two days, hopefully make some more putts. Let’s see where it gets me because I’m keen to keep my Asian Tour card." he added.
Kshitij Naveed Kaul’s bogey-free effort and Vikrant Chopra’s six birdies and a bogey also placed them tied fifth. Aman Raj and Sanjay Kumar are tied 16th with scores of four-under-68.
Kaul, who made his pro debut at the Panasonic Open in 2018 and finished Tied-sixth, was happy with his bogey-free round and said, “Today my hitting was good. Putting was also good, I didn't hit any bad putts but just that I misread a few. Even the putts that I missed were good putts but they just didn't go in. I have been working on my approach shots all year to hit them closer.” 

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