Unheralded Khan takes early lead in Johnnie Walker Classic

February 29th, 2008 - 1:27 am ICT by admin  

(Afternoon Lead)
By V. Krishnaswamy
Gurgaon, Feb 28 (IANS) Inspired by his friend S.S.P. Chowrasia’s amazing win at the Indian Masters earlier this month, Shamim Khan, a soft-spoken local professional from Delhi Golf Club, shared the early lead in the opening round of the Johnnie Walker Classic at the DLF Golf and Country Club Thursday morning. Khan, 30, who has just one title in his 14-year-long professional career, shot a flawless five-under 67 that gave him a share of the early lead with 31-year-old Argentine Daniel Vancsik, who claimed his maiden European Tour title only last year at the Madiera Islands Open. Vancsik shot a five-under 67 with five birdies, an eagle and two bogeys.

In rather benign conditions with no wind, the course was playing quite easy, leading to good scores in the morning session.

Four other players trooped in with four-under 68 each, while there were three Indians, the ailing Shiv Kapur, Arjun Atwal and Arjun Singh with three-under 69 each.

Though the overall scoring was good, Colin Montgomerie struggled with a two-over 74. Fiji’s Vijay Singh managed only two-under 70, the same as another Indian, Gaurav Ghei.

Kapur, who contemplated pulling out in the morning, hung in there as the day warmed up and shot a 69 despite a bogey on his 17th hole, the eighth of the course.

“I almost didn’t tee it up today as I woke up feeling really rotten. I didn’t get any sleep last night and it was one of those things where I said let’s see how I go today. This being the fourth day of my illness, I thought if I can get through today, tomorrow I should be fully fit,” said Kapur.

“I did consider pulling out as I didn’t have any energy. I couldn’t’ keep my head up and my nose was running. But sometimes it’s better that way. Sometimes, you don’t let your head get into the way and you just go out there and swing the way you know best. You don’t really think too much about technique or the situation or the score. Sometimes, you need to be sick to realise it and that’s the way it has worked out,” he added.

The toast of the morning session was Shamin Khan, who raised early visions of a Chowrasia-like situation this week. Unknown to his international rivals, Khan has been having a good season at home with top-10 finishes in each of the three domestic events he has played so far. He was in top-3 in two of them.

“Chowrasia is an old friend of mine. It is true he has inspired me. I have played a lot with him and it has set the tone for us to do well in international events at home,” said Khan.

Last year Khan was fourth at the midway stage of the 2007 Hero Honda Indian Open but then faded away at the later stages.

“My driving was very good and I took just 24 putts for the round,” said the shy Khan. He also had some good long birdies, including a 25-footer on the 11th after starting from the tenth.

Talking of the greens, Khan said: “The lines are not too difficult to read. You have to adjust to it. Adapting to it will help you to perform,” he said. “I am really happy that in a star-studded field, I am at the top of the leaderboard. I just can’t explain it in words.”

Atwal, who is using the co-sanctioned events in Asia to find his form, said: “I’m getting into contention a bit. I’ve played three events this year and I’ve been in contention going into the final round. In Jakarta, I was close there. So as long as I can keep doing that, it should be fun.”

In his first event on Nationwide earlier this year, Atwal was in contention after three rounds at Indian Masters and then finished tenth at Indonesia. He took a break after that as he had a stiff neck.

“I took a week off, but my neck was tight. It was tight in Jakarta and I thought I would rest it. And today it got really sore again when I was playing, and I hit a few shots that had to kind of go around it and hopefully it’s okay by this time to play tomorrow,” he added.

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