Gurbaaz, Firoze share lead on rain-hit first day at Bangalore Open


Bangalore : Long-hitting Gurbaaz Mann and seasoned Firoze Ali Mollah shared the lead as only half the field was able to complete the first round with the weather playing spoilsport at the Global Green Bangalore Open here Thursday.

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Mann, a regular on the Asian Tour, and Firoze, the 1998 Indian Open winner playing with fever, shot three-under 69 each in the morning session, as none of the golfers who teed off in the afternoon could complete their rounds.

One shot behind the two leaders, at two-under 70, were three players including Asian Tour star S.S.P. Chowrasia, young Himmat Singh Rai and Delhi’s Shamim Khan. A further one shot off at one-under 71 was Rahil Gangjee with Naman Dawar, Sanjay Kumar and Vinod Kumar.

Sixty players will return in the morning to complete their first round after, which the second round will begin.

Despite a cloudy morning, play began on time and continued till 3 p.m., when the first stoppage had to be called as a sudden downpour hit the course. When it subsided within 15 minutes an hour’s play was possible before a heavier downpour put an end to all hopes of the remaining players completing their round.

Mann, who has memories of playing in the lead group at the Emaar-MGF PGTI Championships last year, drained five birdies in his 69. His birdies came on the fourth, fifth, ninth, 11th and the 14th. And the only blemish was on the sixth where he missed the green in regulation and also three-putted for a double bogey.

“Overall, I was very satisfied with my performance. I have always played well at the KGA course. The last time I played here, I had the third best score at the end of round three and played in the leader group on the final day,” said the Chandigarh-based golfer.

On the changes in the course, where the back nine has been re-laid, Mann said: “This course is now a ball striker’s course after the relaying. You really need to hit the ball well here. The changes in the course have taken the game away from the greens. For me the tee shots have become decisive. For instance, the 11th hole rewards a good shot off the tee and is now one of the most challenging holes on this course.”

Firoze, who had medicine to suppress a fever before teeing off, had a sedate start with one birdie and one bogey on the back nine of the course after starting on the tenth. He birdied the first and then sank a 40-footer for an eagle to go three-under. He dropped a shot on sixth, but got it back with a birdie on the par-five ninth, his closing hole.

His 40-foot putt for eagle was the high spot. “The fact that I was down with fever for the last few days, makes today’s round all the more special,” said Feroze. “The newly laid back nine is characterized by greens which are not very easy to read. But that’s because these greens are largely unused. Once they are used over a period of time, they will play better.”

Chowrasia, one of the favourites at the Global Green Bangalore Open, had birdies on the third, ninth, 14th and 16th and dropped shots on third and tenth.

Himmat, one of the only three players to have finished in top-10 of both the first two events this season, also sank four birdies against two bogeys. His birdies came on the third, fifth, 14th and 16th, while his bogeys came on the 11th and 17th.

The 2006-07 PGTI Order of Merit winner Ashok Kumar and IOC Xtra Premium Masters 2007 champion Mukesh Kumar shot identical scores of even par 72 to grab a share of 10th position. Harmeet Kahlon, the winner of the last PGTI event at the KGA, was tied 18th after a two-over 74.