James, Richie share lead

A Staff Reporter

Calcutta: India's Shiv Kapur was hot on the heels of co-leaders Englishman James Morrison and Richie Ramsay of Scotland at tied third spot, as the opening day of the Hero Indian Open had a crowded feel at the top of the leaderboard.

Kapur had a four-under 67, one stroke behind the leaders, who shared the opening round lead at five-under-par 66 on Thursday at the lovely and sunny KGA Golf Course, which is hosting its first international professional tournament.

The top 13 players were within two shots and another eight were just one behind, indicating that this is going to a tight contest over next three days at the Asian Tour event with a prize fund of approximately $1.25 million.

Morrison and Ramsay, both playing on a sponsor's invitation, held a one-shot lead over local hope Kapur, Panuphol Pittayarat and Chapchai Nirat of Thailand, Kalle Samooja and Jaakko Makitalo of Finland, Zaw Moe of Myanmar and Spaniard Javi Colomo.

Playing from the back nine, Zaw Moe shot back-to-back eagles on holes 11 and 12 to hold the lead for most of the round before making double bogey on the par three eighth hole.

A little down the leaderboard, Gaganjeet Bhullar, one of the big favourites this week, began with a flawless three-under 68 and was tied 10th, alongside three others, including another Indian Shankar Das.

Ramsay, winner of the Omega European Masters in September which was sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour, turned in 34 with one eagle and one bogey. The wind started to pick up late in the afternoon and so did Ramsay's form as he returned with four birdies in his homeward nine.

"I kept it going on the front nine and played lovely on the back. I hit it nicely on the last few holes but couldn't make my putts. As long as you are hitting fairways, there are a lot of chances out there," said Ramsay. "There was a little bit of breeze and crosswinds which made the fairways a lot narrower but the course is playing great and obviously it is good to get off to a good start and I'll try to build on this."

Morrison, a winner in Europe, enjoyed a solid three-hole stretch when he birdied hole four and sank a huge 30 foot eagle putt on the par five fifth hole followed by another birdie on six.

"I kept out of the rough and found most of the fairways. The course was brilliant and I like this kind of an old-style course, which is tree-lined and challenging. It was a good day but there was also a tricky crosswind as the round progressed," said Morrison.

Kapur, who has three-top 10s on the Asian Tour this season, recovered from an early bogey as he rolled in five birdies including one on the last hole.

"If you told me I would shoot a 67 at the start of the day in this breeze, I would have taken it. The way I struck it, I gave myself a lot of chances. I'll take this as a start and hopefully build on this from here," said Kapur, whose last victory on the Asian Tour was in 2005.

Bhullar said: "It was very consistent round. Nothing spectacular but a good and solid day in office with three birdies and 15 pars. A round of 68 to start a big event like the Hero Indian Open is just right.

I played well I gave myself a lot of chances and it could have been something five-under but that's the way golf is. I am two shots off the leaders, James Morrison and Richie Ramsay and I am comfortable with that."

He added: "I missed a few birdies out there, especially on the 17th and 18th. But then I saved great pars on fourth and 16th, so it all levels out."