Sher, Jha share lead at six-under

Bhullar, Randhawa in tied fifth spot

AGE NO BAR: The 45-year-old Ali Sher shared the first-round lead on Wednesday. DH Photo

After the 45-year-old Delhi pro set the course on fire with a scorching nine birdies and three bogeys despite suffering from cold and fever, the Bangalore-based Jha matched his senior by raining the Eagleton Golf resort with eight birdies and two bogies to also card a six-under 66.

The duo holds a one-stroke lead over Anura Rohana and Vinod Kumar, while tournament favourite Gaganjeet Bhullar and Raj Randhawa returned cards of four-under 68 to lie tied fifth. Sher, the two-time Indian Open champion who won his last title almost a decade ago, made a sedate start but rode on a phenomenal back nine that had everyone gasping.

A first-tee starter, Sher made the turn at even-par after cancelling out two bogeys with two birdies. With hardly any wind blowing and in ideal conditions, Sher quickly pressed the accelerator, leaving a trail of birdies on the 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 16th, 17th and 18th holes. His only blot on the back nine was a bogey on the par-5 15th.

The delighted Delhi veteran said the fever might have helped him play better.

“The fact that I was suffering from cold made me concentrate harder. I let myself down with a few bad chips on the front nine, but I managed to pull it back with some great hitting on the backward journey.”

The 22-year-old Jha, training at Eagleton for the last five years, made good use of his knowledge of home conditions. Like Sher, he too enjoyed a superb trip around the back nine. He birdied the 12th, 13th, 15th and 17th, and rounded off a great day with a simple three-foot birdie putt on the 18th.

Leading scores (after 18 holes): 66: Ali Sher, Abhishek Jha; 67: Anura Rohana, Vinod Kumar; 68: Gaganjeet Bhullar, Raj Randhawa; 69: Ashok Kumar, R Srinivas, Md Islam, Gaurav Pratap Singh; 70: Ranjit Singh, Raju Ali Mollah, Keshav Kapoor, Sandeep Syal.

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