Veterans Mukesh Kumar and Harmeet Kahlon returned cards of five-under 65 to take the lead in the first round of the Players Championship at the Tollygunge Club in Kolkata on Tuesday.
The players carded six birdies and a bogey each on a day of 18 sub-par totals although Kahlon would consider himself unlucky for not emerging the sole leader because of a blemish on the par-four ninth.
A pack of six was following the leaders at three-under. Manav Jaini was one of them and he had a special day, hitting a hole-in-one on the par-three sixth. He got off to the worst possible start with a double bogey on the par-four first but recovered with that eagle and four birdies, although there was a bogey on the 11th.
Kahlon, who started from the 10th hole, and Mukesh, who teed off from the first, were off to similar starts with birdies at the beginning.
Both were three-under after the first nine holes. After three more birdies and a bogey each in the last nine, they said the short game was going be the key on this course.
“My hitting was average, but I chipped and putted really well,” said Kahlon. He made a 30-foot putt for birdie on the 16th and sunk one in from 36 feet for another on the second. “On this course, you have to hit your approach shot close to the pin and take advantage of the par-fives.” Kahlon did exactly that, hitting birdies on all three par-five holes.
Mukesh too felt the secret to success was the short game. “My putting was good and that I had two birdies on the first six came as a bonus.” But he rued being too aggressive on the par-four 14th, which he bogeyed. “My tee shot wasn’t good and instead of playing safe I attacked the pin. The shot crossed the hole and went past the green.”
Putting was the key for Jaini too. “I was confident of recovering after the double bogey because I was hitting ball well.”
From two-over after the first, he was two-under after the seventh with birdies immediately before and after the eagle. “It was a perfect four-iron shot which bounced just short of the green and kicked towards the hole. I just saw it land before the ball disappeared from my sight. My caddy started jumping in joy although I couldn’t believe it for a few seconds,” said Jaini.