Gurbaaz and Chowrasia tied 11th at Singapore Open


Sentosa (Singapore) : Hiccups right at the end seemed to be the order of the day for Gurbaaz Mann, S.S.P. Chowrasia and Arjun Singh on the first day of the $4 million Barclay’s Singapore Open golf tournament here Thursday.

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The trio seemed set for an excellent effort on a tough and demanding course, till the blues struck them down late in their rounds.

Gurbaaz and Chowrasia ended at one-under 70 each and were tied at 11th place, while Arjun Singh collapsed from one-under to three-over dropping four shots on last three holes in fading light at the Sentosa Golf Club.

Chowrasia had played flawless golf through the day and was cruising at three-under, when a double bogey on the 18th brought him to one-under.

Gurbaaz, two-under after 15 holes dropped a crucial bogey on the seventh, his 16th hole of the day and finished at 70 on the par-71 Serapong golf course.

Despite a star-studded field including world No.2 Phil Mickelson, three relatively unknown players, Jin Park, Gavin Flint, shared the lead with Australian Kane Webber. All of them turned in five-under 66 each.

Mickelson and Korea’s K.J. Choi, who has won six times on PGA Tour, were tied fifth at three-under, one shot behind Angelo Que (67) of the Philippines.

Former world no.1 Vijay Singh of Fiji and world no.4 and defending champion Adam Scott carded identical one-under 70 to be tied 11th, and world no.4 Ernie Els was tied 39th at one-over 72.

Reigning US Open champion Angel Cabrera of Argentina was tied 24th at even par 71, as were Ryder Cup stars Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood.

Apart from Gurbaaz and Chowrasia, the only two Indians under par, it was not a good day for the rest of the Indians.

Gaurav Ghei (72) was tied for 59th, while 2005 Volvo Masters of Asia champion Shiv Kapur and runner-up in Indonesia last week, Gaganjeet Bhullar shot 73 each and were tied 52nd.

Arjun Singh (74) was tied 72nd after dropping shots in a bunch in fading light, while Rahil Gangjee frittered away a good start with a 75 and was 88th.

Digvijay (76) was tied 102nd, Amandeep Johl (77) was tied 116th, Harmeet Kahlon (79) was tied 130th and Uttam Singh Mundy (81) was 137th.

“I played fine the whole day and one messed-up hole cost me a lot,” said Chowrasia. He had a birdie-birdie start and was three-under after first four holes.

“I was careful and played straight and managed most fairways and was happy with pars all the way through till the 18th. That’s where I made all my mistakes. I went into a bunker off the tee and had to come out.

“Then I went to right rough, from where I did well to land on the green with my fourth. I had a great putt from 40 feet, as it hit the cup and went a foot and a half ahead. But I missed that short bogey putt for a seven and was very upset at that,” said Chowrasia summing up his day.

Gurbaaz, who has often done well in the initial rounds but faded away after that, has brought his coach Jesse Grewal all the way from Chandigarh.

Playing from the tenth, he had a birdie on 11th but he dropped a shot on 12th. Then he maintained par golf for next eight holes. He birdied on third and sixth and was two-under. But a late bogey on seventh brought him back to one-under.

“It’s a tough course and anything under par is a decent start,” said a calm Gurbaaz.

Arjun Singh was understandably upset. Struggling to cement his place once again on the Asian Tour, he was one-under after 15 holes when light started fading. “I was two-under after 10 before I had a bogey on 11th. In the end, in an attempt to hurry up, I messed it all up. I bogeyed at the 16th, double bogeyed the 17th and again bogeyed 18th. It was really very disappointing.”

Shiv Kapur just could not get his putter going and Ghei admitted he was happy to scrap it out for a 72.

“I had a lot of birdie opportunities that did not go on. I was thinking even par or one under would be a good score today and as it happened I shot one under,” said Vijay Singh.

But he did have an eagle two at the ninth hole (his final hole of the day). “At the last hole (the ninth) I had 146 yards to the flag and hit a nine iron. I hit a pretty good drive, which rolled into the rough. It came out pretty well and I was just hoping it was going to be the right club. It landed on the green but I did not see it go on – I just knew from the crowd reaction.”

There were mixed feelings for the Singaporean fans. Their hero Mardan Mamat was disqualified for writing down a wrong score — 68 instead of 69 — but Australian Gavin Flint, whose mother is Singaporean, provided some cheer.

When asked about his Singapore connection, he said: “It kind of feels like a national open to me. I had my mum and a few other friends out there supporting me this morning and to be able to stay at home is very good.”

Flint birdied his last two holes and overall had five birdies and no bogeys.

Jin Park, an American of Korean origin, is a rookie on Asian Tour who has played only six events and made three cuts.

“We had a baby girl on the 2nd of April and so I stayed back and played on a couple of mini tours in Phoenix, played some tournaments in Asia and also on Nationwide,” said Park, who is based in the US and tries to keep coming back to play in Asia. He had six birdies and one bogey.

Kane Webber, winner of the Macau Open in 2006, was one of the handful to come back with a bogey free round. Like Flint, he also had five birdies and no bogeys.

Mickelson was happy with his scoring but not driving. “I shot 68 today. I scored well and got the ball into the hole well and made some good putts. My driving has been terrible and the worst that it’s been since I started working with Butch Harmon. It’s 10.15 his time at night and I’m going to give him a call, wake him up. This course is challenging tee to green. The fairways are tight and I drove it poorly today. Lucky to escape with a three under par round.”

Defending champion Adam Scott said he shot a solid 70. “I was actually quite pleased with my round today. It was pretty solid, though I left a couple of birdies out there.” But the blot was a three-putt on tenth from 30 feet.