Jeev and Rashid lead Indian challenge in Avantha Masters

February 17th, 2011 - 9:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Gurgaon, Feb 17 (IANS) Jeev Milkha Singh and Rashid Khan spearheaded the home challenge with a four-under 68 each which placed them two shots behind the leader Robert-Jan Derksen of the Netherlands on the opening day of the weather-hit Avantha Masters golf Thursday.Derksen posted an opening six-under-par 66 to take the clubhouse lead at the 1.8 Euros million (approximately $2.3 million) Avantha Masters, jointly sanctioned by Asian, European and Aircel Indian PGTI Tours.

Play was delayed by three and a half hours after the DLF Golf and Country was shrouded in heavy fog in the morning. A total of 66 players are yet to complete the first round and will resume at 7.15 am local time tomorrow.

Derksen enjoyed a bogey-free 66 and he led by one shot from England’s Mark Foster and Argentina’s Julio Zapata who carded for matching 67s. Australia’s Darren Beck is lying in second place on five-under-par through 13 holes.

Bunched with Jeev and Rashid Khan was three-time Asian Tour winner Chapchai Nirat of Thailand at 68. Austrian Bernd Wiesberger, last year’s runner-up England’s Richard Finch and Fabrizio Zanotti of Paraguay also shot 68 each.

While Derksen led the field, another Dutchman Maarten Lafeber had a hole in one at the par three 11th to win a Volvo XC 60 for his ace. He had four bogeys on the front nine and was six-under after 11, but three bogeys in next seven holes saw him end at 69 in tied 11th with seven others, including India’s Sujjan Singh.

“I have got a bet with my caddie that if we win this week we will take the trophy to the Taj Mahal but I need to win first of course,” said Derksen.

“I have never been and I think this is a great occasion to make that happen.”

Crowd favourite Jeev Milkha Singh opened his campaign remarkably despite still nursing a back injury and being impeded with a two-shot penalty for infringing a local rule on the par-four 13th.

The 39-year-old Indian got off well with a birdie on the par-three 11th but got into trouble on the 13th hole. He had another double bogey on 15th.

But he also had six birdies and brilliant eagle from a 45-footer on the closing ninth for a 68.

“I started off well with a 30 feet birdie putt on the 11th. I then ran into some trouble on the 13th where my drive hit the floodlight tower. I should have replayed that stroke as per the local rules but having overlooked that particular clause in the local rules, I went on to play my second shot from the spot where the ball had landed after rebounding off the pole. That error cost me a two-stroke penalty,” said Jeev of his costly mistake, which eventually resulted in a double bogey.

Lafeber, who shot a hole-in-one said, “It was 160 metres with the wind coming in a little bit off the right.

“I hit a punchy, three-quarter six iron. I aimed a little right of the pin to allow the wind to bring it in and hit it perfectly. It was going straight for the flag but we could not tell if it was in or just very close. We were all looking and wondering until the crowd started clapping and jumping around so then we knew that it was in.”

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