Ghei, Randhawa make steady start, tied for 22nd place at Shanghai


Shanghai : Gaurav Ghei sank three birdies in his last four holes to register a steady start of two-under 70 in the star-studded $5 million HSBC Champions golf tournament at the Seshan Golf and Country Club in Shanhghai.

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Ghei, who came into the field by virtue of his win at the Pine Valley Beijing Open, was tied for 22nd position with fellow Indian Jyoti Randhawa, who had four birdies and two bogeys in his round of 70.

Swede Niclas Fasth and American Kevin Stadler shared the lead following a thrilling opening day on which both shot eight-under 64 and opened a three-shot lead over Vijay Singh (67).

The 39-year-old Ghei, who is going through a superb phase in his golf, is currently also the highest Indian on the UBS Asian Tour Order of Merit at seventh place. He started with a bogey on the par-4 first hole. But then he steadied himself with three pars in a row before finding birdies on the fifth and seventh. Just as things looked good, he dropped a bogey on par-5 eighth and turned in even par.

A birdie on 11th was followed by a bogey on the next. Then towards the end, Ghei birdied the 15th, 16th and 18th, but also gave away a shot on 17th.

Hero Honda Indian Open champion and Asia No. 1 in 2002, Randhawa, 35, who finished the European 2006 season with earnings just under 850,000 euro and in a career-high 33rd place, had one birdie on the fifth and a bogey on seventh. He had back-to-back birdies on 10th and 11th, before a bogey set him back on 12th. He closed with a neat birdie on the par-5 closing hole for his 70.

Fasth, who had an outside chance of wrapping up the European Order of Merit last week at Valderrama, and Stadler, shot record equalling eight under par rounds of 64.

Behind third placed Vijay Singh were the Open Champion Padraig Harrington, his European Ryder Cup team-mate Paul Casey, US Open Champion Angel Cabrera and pre-tournament favourite, World Number 2 Phil Mickelson, all at 68 each.

Fasth, who could have won the 2007 European Tour Order of Merit with a win at Valderrama last week, birdied the opening hole before carding an eagle three at the second. He dropped his only shot of the day at the 13th but bounced back with birdies at each of the next three holes.

The winner of the 2006 Johnnie Walker Classic, Stadler — who secured his PGA Tour card last week in the final event of the season at the Children’s Miracle Network Classic in Florida — came into the tournament on the basis of his ranking on the PGA Tour of Australasia.

Stadler, 27, had birdies at the first three holes and followed that with three more at the seventh, eighth and ninth to be out in six under par 30. He had more birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th but dropped a shot at the 11th, where his drive went into a fairway bunker.

Three time Major winner and 44-year-old Vijay Singh moved into third place at the end of the opening day thanks to a strong finish with four birdies in the last six holes.

Mickelson began with three birdies on first four holes, but finished at 68 with Harrington.