Singapore: Jeev Milkha Singh, who is on a recovery path from a shoulder injury, seemed headed for a flawless day before a late double bogey blotted the card and he finished with a round of five-under 67 on the first day of The Championship at Laguna National on Thursday.
On a day when lightning and thunder delayed the start by over an hour and by the end 18 players were still to complete their first round, no less than three Indians came in with five-under scores.
While Jeev Milkha and the in-form Anirban Lahiri had completed their rounds, Rahil Gangjee after five birdies still had three holes to complete. The trio was tied 16th, four shots behind Thailand's Panuphol Pittayarat who put up a class act when he fired a sparkling nine-under-par 63 at the USD 1.5 million event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.
While Digvijay Singh and SSP Chowrasia fired four-under 68 each to be tied 26th on a low-scoring day, Chiragh Kumar (69) was tied 48th. Things were not as good for Rashid Khan (72), Shiv Kapur (74), Himmat Rai (three-over through 15), and Jyoti Randhawa (77).
Lahiri, who is now ranked at a career-best 67th in the world and leads Asian Tour earnings for this year, was happy to see his putter working. "I got off to a wayward start. I didn't hit the ball very good today but it was nice to have my putter come to my rescue for a change. I am happy with how I am striking the ball. I feel more confident with my game this week (after my win in Indonesia last week) as compared to the last few weeks," said Lahiri, one of Asia's top stars at the EurAsia Cup in March.
Jeev, who had a slow start in the Middle East at the start of the year, took almost 10 weeks off after that - though he did make an appearance in the domestic Indian circuit with little success - before missing the cuts in Malaysia and China.
"It was a great round for me. I haven't been doing well in the last few weeks but my game is coming around. I'm happy that I shot 67. This has come after a long time," said Jeev, who was six-under after 16 holes. But a double bogey on the 17th set him back before he recovered some ground with a birdie on 18th.
Jeev added, "My shoulder injury is getting better. I'm taking medication after the surgery so it's working out. I think what is important for me now is to trust my game. I have got to trust it under pressure so I can put more good numbers out there."
Singapore's Quincy Quek kept chase with Panuphol by returning with a 64 to share second place with Scotland's Scott Jamieson, American-Korean David Lipsky and Korea's Kim Byung-jun.
After missing the cut in his last three starts on the Asian Tour, Panuphol breathed new life into his season with a flawless 63 that would have been the course record if not for the preferred lie ruling in place this week.
A total of 18 players will have to return at 7.40am (local time) to complete their first round after play was suspended due to fading light.