Rohana takes lead on day one

Rohana takes lead on day one

Md Zamal in second, Bajaj tied for third place

The 38-year-old Sri Lankan, a member of the Professional Golf Tour of India since 2002 but with only one triumph -- at the Surya Nepal Masters two seasons ago in Kathmandu -- shot a sizzling four-under 68 to steer clear of a jam-packed leaderboard at the Karnataka Golf Association.

Bangladesh’s Md Zamal Hossain Mollah lay second, one stroke behind, while India’s Guangzhou Asian Games silver medallist Rahul Bajaj was tied for third along with Sanjay Kumar and Raju Ali Mollah at 70. Talented Chandigarh youngster Ajeetesh Sandhu, who temporarily held the clubhouse lead, was pushed to tied sixth at 71 along with seven others as a vastly unheralded field made hay in the glorious conditions on offer.

“I am very happy with the way I played today,” said an ecstatic Rohana. “I’ve been trying desperately to break by title duck on Indian soil and I see this as a great opportunity. I finished inside the top-10 in my two events at KGA last year, and I hope to go the distance this year.”

With eight of the top-20 players from the PGTI Order of Merit List missing owing to their participation at the Asian Tour’s Macau Open, the onus was on the likes defending champion Ashok Kumar and mutiple Order of Merit winner Mukesh Kumar to provide the fireworks.

While they didn’t necessarily sparkle, managing cards of 74 and 72 respectively, Rohana set the early tempo with a riveting display. Driving the ball impeccably, his control and direction on the approach shots was as smooth and perfect as the two luxury sedans parked on either side of the opening tee box. Attacking the flags consistently, the 38-year-old repeatedly kept setting himself up for birdie opportunities, impressing especially on the par-fives.

After tapping in a three-footer for birdie on the fifth, Rohana dropped a shot on the seventh but quickly made amends with a birdie on the ninth. He then eagled the par-5 11th when his brilliant 5-iron second shot landed within 15 feet of the cup, which he brilliantly sunk.

He nearly fired a second successive eagle on the par-4 12th but the ball landed an agonising six inches short of the cup. The brilliant day in office, however, ended on a sour note after he collected a bogey on the 17th.

Leading scores (after 18 holes, ‘A’ denotes amateur): 68: Anura Rohana; 69: Md Zamal Hossain Mollah; 70: Rahul Bajaj (‘A’), Sanjay Kumar, Raju Ali Mollah; 71: Ajeetesh Sandhu, Gurbaaz PS Mann, R Srinivas, Anthony Paul Choat, Shamim Khan, Harendra P Gupta, Vishal Singh, Sandeep Syal; 72: Abhishek Jha, Naman Dawar, Akshay Butta, Mukesh Kumar, Khalin Joshi (‘A’), Ranjit Singh Rathore, Vikrant Chopra, Gaurav Pratap Singh.

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