Chonburi, Thailand: It was a tough day for Indian hopefuls at the Open Qualifying Series-Thailand as Rahil Gangjee emerged as the best with one-under 71, here on Thursday.
Gangjee, who was placed tied 15th, is three behind the leader Hiroshi Iwata (68) of Japan at the end of the first round of the 36-hole qualifier.
Chiragh Kumar (73) was the second best at tied 28th, while the better-known names Anirban Lahiri, SSP Chowrasia and Himmat Rai had a disappointing outing. Lahiri pulled out after the first round of 74, while Chowrasia carded 78 and Himmat shot 79.
Gangjee started in style with back-to-back birdies but gave away a shot on fourth. A birdie on seventh followed by a bogey on eighth meant he turned in one-under. On the back nine, he bogeyed the 16th and birdied the 17th.
Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh, seen as one of the challengers for the four spots available from the qualifier for the British Open, was also out of form as he carded 78.
Iwata edged closer to making his return to the world's oldest Major after a first round four-under-par 68 saw him take his place atop the leaderboard.
Thailand's Prom Meesawat and Singapore's Koh Dengshan also remained in the hunt for a place at The Open Championship when they posted matching 69s to share second place with Spain's Carlos Pigem and Japan's Akinori Tani at Amata Spring Country Club.
The hotly contested two-day qualifier has brought together an international field of 75 players from 18 countries who are vying for one of the four places to The Open Championship which will be held at Royal Liverpool, Hoylake from July 17-20.
Iwata is clearly hoping to tee up against the world's best players at the Championship again as it has been more than six years since he made his debut in 2008.
Koh also had a day to remember for all the right reasons when he surpassed all expectations by signing for a 69 in what was only his first outing on this course.
With only 18 holes separating him from a historic debut at championship, the Singaporean is drawing inspiration from his fellow countrymen Mardan Mamat and Lam Chih Bing to keep his hopes alive.
Meanwhile Prom continued to ride on his rich vein of form by trading four birdies against a lone bogey to stay on track of making his second appearance at championship since 2011.