Mr Vishal and rookie Mr Arjun set the bar in round one of IndianOil SERVO Masters Golf 2017

Digboi, Assam, November 22: Seasoned campaigner Vishal Singh of Jaipur and Delhi-based rookie Arjun Prasad, playing his first event at the Digboi Golf Links, set the bar at five-under-67 in round one of the IndianOil SERVO Masters Golf 2017. Bengaluru’s M Dharma and Delhi’s Pawan Kumar also impressed with scores of four-under-68 to be tied third.

Vishal Singh’s putter was on fire on the front-nine as he sank five putts between 10 and 20 feet for an eagle and four birdies on the first eight holes. However, the 45-year-old’s putter wasn’t as effective on the back-nine since he missed a few putts that resulted in three bogeys.

Nonetheless, Vishal, a winner on the PGTI back in 2009, still did manage to drain a couple of long birdie putts on the inward nine including his fourth 20-footer of the day on the 18th that kept him in the lead.

Vishal said, “I’ve been struggling with my game this year having had some troubles with my swing. I made the cut in only four out of 14 events this year. That sums up my season so far. It’s in total contrast to last year when I finished in the top-50. But I’ve worked hard on my swing recently and things now seem to be falling into place. My focus this week will be more on the process of getting my swing right rather than the result.

“I had shot a 67 here at Digboi back in 1999 which was then a course record. So I have some good memories of this venue which should help me perform well this week. This is an extremely crucial week for me since I’m fighting to retain my card on the PGTI.  I hope to build on this start in order to deliver a top performance here and subsequently move up in the money list,” added Singh, who is currently 93rd on the PGTI Order of Merit.

Eighteen-year-old rookie Arjun Prasad, who earned his card on both the Asian Tour and the PGTI at the start of 2017, enjoyed a good ball-striking day as he regularly landed it close to create birdie chances for himself.

Prasad was two-under at the turn and then picked up three more strokes on his second nine which included a chip-in on the fifth and an excellent recovery from the rough on the seventh. The teenager missed a three feet birdie putt on the closing ninth that could’ve given him the outright lead.

Arjun said, “I created a lot of chances for myself through my solid hitting. I also took just 26 putts today. I’m playing in Digboi for the first time and I’ve really enjoyed the place and the course so far. This course has a fantastic layout which is also very different from the other courses in the country.

“It’s not been an ideal first season for me on the professional circuit but I’ve learnt a lot playing in varying conditions on both the Asian Tour and the PGTI. Hopefully, the opening round effort here will now help lift my game,” added Prasad, currently placed 88th on the PGTI Order of Merit. M Dharma mixed five birdies with a bogey for a 68 while Pawan Kumar returned an error-free 68. Both were one off the lead in tied third.

Faridabad’s Ramesh Kumar, Noida’s Rahul Bajaj and Gurgaon’s Manu Gandas were joint fifth at three-under-69. Shamim Khan of Delhi, the champion of the 2014 edition, fired a 72 to be tied 16th. Among the local golfers, the two best first round scores were registered by Biren Karmakar (73) and Deep Raj Chetia (75). Karmakar was placed tied 25th while Chetia was in tied 42nd place.

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