KOLKATA — Shubhankar Sharma, fresh from his maiden international win at the Joburg Open last week, lived up to the tag of being the pre-tournament favorite at the PGTI's season-ending McLeod Russel Tour Championship with a scorching opening round of six-under-66 that gave him the lead.
Bengaluru's Rahil Gangjee, playing at his former home course, the Royal Calcutta Golf Club, and Rashid Khan of Delhi also got off to impressive starts with scores of five-under-67 to share second place at the PGTI's season-ending event worth Rs. 1.5 crore.
Sharma, 21, continued his good form with a top-class 66 at the RCGC.
Sharma's accurate hitting ensured he kept landing it close to the pin on the front-nine where he had five birdies and a bogey.
Sharma sank his longest putt of the day, a 30-footer, for birdie on the 10th and followed that up with another birdie on the 11th to move to six-under.
He then made pars all the way till the end. He signed off with a brilliant chip-putt to save par on the 18th.
"I couldn't have asked for a better start to the week. I was four-under after nine and six-under after 11 holes. I've been striking it well and of course the confidence is high after two good weeks in Asia. I feel with my current state of mind, even if I hit a few bad shots, I'm confident enough to still shoot a low number," Sharma told reporters later.
Veteran Gangjee, now a Bengalurean, fired a bogey-free 67 to make a grand start to the week in his original home Kolkata.
Gangjee, who retained his Asian Tour card by a narrow margin after finishing 60th in the Order of Merit last week, sank two 25-footers for birdies Dec. 21 along with a 20-footer for par on the 13th.
Khan, the joint course record holder at RCGC courtesy his 63 at the 2014 McLeod Russel Tour Championship, mixed six birdies with a bogey for his 67. Rashid tapped-in for birdie on the ninth and chipped-in for another birdie on the 13th.
Among the foreign players in the field, Japan's Yuwa Kosaihira and Sri Lankan N. Thangaraja were the highest-placed in tied fourth at 69 along with Delhi's Sachin Baisoya and Patna's Aman Raj.
Local favorite S.S.P. Chawrasia carded a 71 to be tied 12th while Chandigarh's Ajeetesh Sandhu was a further shot back in tied 20th.
Jyoti Randhawa's first round 73 placed him tied 27th.