A closing birdie blitz gave young Germans Yannik Paul the clubhouse lead on seven-under-par 65 ahead of local boy Honey Baisoya on the opening day of the $2 million Hero Indian Open 2023 at the DLF Golf and Country Club in Gurgaon on Thursday.
Paul, who finished second at last week’s DP World Tour event in Thailand, overtook Baisoya, who had led for much of the day with a six-under 66 even as fading light forced the final two groups off the course.
Finland’s Mikko Korhonen was another late runner, holding third place with a solid five-under 67 that included an eagle three on the Par-5 eighth hole. But it was Paul’s four birdies in his closing four holes that really turned things over at the top.
Familiarity with the venue paid off for Baisoya, who confessed later he played the course every day when in town. Shubhankar Sharma was tied fourth with his friend from Chandigrah Angad Cheema and Iceland’s Gudmundur Kristjansson, the trio shooting 68 each.
Marcel Siem of Germany, who is back on the main Tour after getting his rights at the Qualifying School, was sole seventh at 69.
Seven players including DLF golfer and domestic PGTI Order of Merit topper Manu Gandas were tied for eighth on two-under 70 including Yuvraj Sandhu who will finish his opening round early on day two.
Paul was pleased with his day. “I played well today. I knew it's a challenging course and I just tried to, you know, focus on one shot at a time,” the 28-year-old said after his round.
“And I had, obviously a great finish. I think four birdies in the last four holes. That helps. So, tomorrow's a new day, just focus on what I can control and see where you end up.”
Paul was one shot short of Shubhankar’s course record eight-under 64 and his eagle putt on the Par-5 18th hole just slid by the pin. Playing in the group just ahead, Gandas too narrowly missed adding an eagle to his name.
In the morning, though, it was Honey Baisoya who set the pace with a blistering round that saw him card eight birdies against a double bogey. Playing in the afternoon, Paul picked up the same number of shots against an opening bogey.
“It was pretty good,” Baisoya said later. “You're going to miss a few out there. That's okay. I made eight birdies and a double bogey. Just made one error on the 14th hole. But that's how DLF is, if you make one bad shot, you're going to come up with a bogey or even a double."
“I made some really good putts today too. The highlight of the day was on 16 where my tee shot went left, hit a tree and came back about 30 yards. And I had about 40 yards to the flag, made the chip and putt. That was very satisfying.”
I'm quite pleased with the round. It was slightly up and down in the beginning. But the back nine is the tougher nine here which is where I started,“ Sharma said about his day,.
“Sometimes you don't make too many mistakes, but even good shots don’t get the result and that happened a couple of times with me on the back nine where I made two bogeys, but I was playing well. And I was feeling really good.”
Finland’s Korhonen had an eagle and five birdies against two dropped shots and said he was quite satisfied with his returns.
“It was a great day of golf. I mean, to shoot anything under par around here, it's always good so I’m really happy. My ball striking was really good though the putting is still a little shaky, but getting better.”
Defending champion Stephen Gallacher of Scotland had a day to forget with a five-over 77 that had a double-bogey and a further four dropped shots against two birdies on a day only the top 33 in the field of 120 were able to finish par or better.
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