Impressive Chikkarangappa in five-way lead

Kolkata :S Chikkarangappa put up an impressive show before being stumbled in the last hole to miss a sole lead as the Bengaluru lad found himself in a five-way lead in the opening day at the McLeod Russel Tour Championship 2015 here today.

The top honours were shared by Chikka, local lad Rahil Gangjee, Gurgaon-based Jyoti Randhawa, Australian Kunal Bhasin and Sri Lankan N Thangaraja, all of whom shot scores of four-under-68.

The leading quintet was two shots clear of the rest at the Rs 1.5 crore event on an overcast day at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club.

The chasing pack of 10 golfers in tied sixth place at two-under-70 included former champions Shankar Das and SSP Chawrasia, both from Kolkata, Rolex Ranking leader Mukesh Kumar and Chandigarh’s Abhijit Singh Chadha, who is currently third in the Rolex Ranking.

Rookie Udayan Mane of Bengaluru, at the moment coasting towards the Emerging Player of the Year title, got off to a solid start with a one-under-71 to be tied 16th.

Three of the pre-tournament favourites Chiragh Kumar (72), Gaganjeet Bhullar (74) and Himmat Singh Rai (80) were placed tied 25th, tied 44th and 68th respectively.

In pursuit of his maiden Rolex Ranking crown after finishing runner-up for successive years, Chikka who’s incidentally second in the Order of Merit began his campaign with an eagle and four birdies against two bogeys.

About eight and a half lakh Rupees behind leader Mukesh Kumar of Mhow in the Order, Chikka produced a massive drive on the 15th followed by an eight feet conversion to help himself to an eagle. He also had two early birdies on two and three where he rolled in a 12-footer and a mammoth 70-footer respectively.

He seemed to be heading for the sole lead with a 15-feet birdie conversion on the 16th but found the trees on the last hole to drop a shot.

“I quite enjoy playing here. Winning the Rolex Ranking crown is a big motivation since I’ve been finishing second in the merit list for the last two years,” Chikka, who has won the junior and amateur events at RCGC, said.

Local lad Rahil Gangjee too negotiated the tough scoring conditions well with five birdies and a bogey. His round featured four birdie conversions from 10 to 15 feet and a couple of brilliant par-saves.

“The course is quite challenging this year… I did really well to save par from difficult situations on the sixth and seventh, perhaps two of the toughest holes on the course,” Gangjee said.

One of India’s all-time greats, Jyoti also ended the day on top of the pack thanks to six birdies and two bogeys. He was one-under through 11 before picking up three more shots on the last seven holes.

“The front-nine here is tougher than the back-nine which has more potential for birdies. The greens are also not easy to read but the course is in great shape,” Randhawa said.