Sandhu sets the pace in Korea

Sandhu sets the pace in Korea

India's Ajeetesh Sandhu played brilliantly on a cold and windy day to emerge as the first round leader with four-under-par 67 score at the 37th GS Caltex Maekyung Open Golf Championship here on Thursday.

Sandhu, who ended the day with a one-shot lead, continued to showcase the strength of Indian golf with a performance that threatens to break the Korean stronghold at the event which has not been won by a foreign player since Mark Calcavecchia of the United States in 2004.

While Sandhu has six birdies against two bogeys, another Indian Shiv Kapur was tied fifth with a card of two-under 69 with five birdies, one bogey and a double bogey.

Among other Indians, Gaganjeet Bhullar and S Chikkarangappa shot 72 each to be tied 33rd.

Jeev Milkha Singh (74) was tied 70th while Arjun Atwal and Jyoti Randhawa with 75 each were tied 87th and Khalin Joshi (76) was tied 100th.

The Korean trio of Heung-chol Joo, Lee Dong Ha and JaeBum Park stayed close to Sandhu when they signed for matching 68s at the Namseoul Country Club which is welcoming back players from the Asian Tour for the first time since 2009.

Spain’s Javi Colomo, Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond, Australia’s Terry Pilkadaris and India’s Kapur are a further shot back from the Koreans after they all posted a 69.

Fresh from a top-10 finish in Japan a fortnight ago, Sandhu believes the recent success of his compatriots has motivated him to do better.

After firing four birdies in his front-nine, the 29-year-old had to battle the elements when play resumed. He showed character by recovering quickly after dropping shots on 14th and 16th holes with birdies on 15th and 17th to sit atop the leaderboard on his own.

“The conditions were tough today. It was cold and windy in the beginning and then the rain came. I would have taken four-under at the beginning of the day but I’m happy with that. Only 18 holes done but I’m happy with the way I’m playing," Sandhu said.

"I played well in Japan but didn’t feel so good in China last week. I guess that happens in golf and you just got to look forward. I’m feeling good about my game and look forward to the next few days. We Indians have been having a really good run recently and that just goes to show how strong our domestic Tour has become."