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Arjun, Dharma overcome elements to be joint leaders

It was a quiet beginning with the golfer taking in small portions of the chicken curry, closing his eyes and swaying slowly in a bid to relish the "delicately-flavoured" preparation, reports Robin Bose.

other Updated: Feb 10, 2009 22:56 IST
Robin Bose

Much as he wanted to savour every morsel of the sumptuous lunch, Arjun Singh found the exercise painstaking. It was a quiet beginning with the golfer taking in small portions of the chicken curry, closing his eyes and swaying slowly in a bid to relish the "delicately-flavoured" preparation. The scenario changed quickly when his ilk trooped into the dining area to greet the Day One leader of the Solaris Chemtech Open.

After striking a balance between accepting compliments and gulping down mouthfuls, Arjun decided to focus on his admirers. In-between the "thank you(s)", the seasoned pro kept emphasising, "Everybody knows the course well." The layout of the Golden Greens Golf and Country Club may have been familiar to most, but they wouldn't have accounted for the howling wind, biting cold and intermittent drizzle.

Battling the elements, Arjun emerged with a card of five-under 67 to be joint leader with M. Dharma. After a quiet back nine (his front nine) that saw a sole birdie on the 15th, Arjun got into the act after making the turn, with birdies on the 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 9th. "My ball-striking was solid and though I didn't miss too many putts, it wasn't easy to read the greens and the strong wind played its part," said the 39-year-old.

But amidst the hype, were some sobering words. Throwing a pensive glance towards the Aravallis, draped in mist he said, "I've played well after a while, hope it continues."

For young gun Dharma, who turned pro in 2005, it was a dream round. The Bangalorean started off steadily but kick-started his campaign with a birdie on the 7th and followed it with an eagle on the 9th. "I played one of my best rounds as a pro. The conditions were tough but it did not bother me as I was striking the ball really well," said the cheerful 22-year-old. Ensuring errors did not creep in, he fired consecutive birdies on the 14th and 15th to end Tuesday on a high.

A stroke behind the leaders was the foursome of Rahul Ganapathy, Mukesh Kumar, Sanjay Kumar and Shankar Das. For defending champion Ganapathy, it was a case of good work getting undone towards the end. "It was a solid round but could have been better as I was four-under after nine holes," he said.

LEADERBOARD: Arjun Singh, M. Dharma (67); Sanjay Kumar, Mukesh Kumar, Shankar Das, Rahul Ganapathy (68); Bhoop Singh, Himmat Singh Rai, Shamim Khan (69).