Indian golfer Rashid Khan fired a career-best 11-under 61 in the opening round of the USD 300,000 SAIL-SBI Open to lead the field by a huge five-stroke margin after the first day at the prestigious Delhi Golf Club here on Wednesday. The 23-year-old, playing on his home course, went on a birdie spree as he picked up nine of them and one eagle in a flawless card, to launch his full Asian Tour season in style.
Rashid produced incredible golf to set the second best score at the DGC, where Liang Wen-Chong of China had set the 18-hole Tour record with a stunning 12-under 60 in the opening round of the 2008 Indian Open. He had won the title with a total of 16-under 272.
Sri Lanka's Mithun Perera, who won the Standard Charter Open and PGTI Eagleburg Open in the last two weeks, produced a six-under 66, same as Japan's Akinori Tani, to stay five strokes behind, while Australian Scott Barr and Bangladesh's Siddikur Rahman was at the fourth spot with a card of five-under 67.
Two-time European Tour champion, SSP Chowrasia, S Chikkarangappa, who narrowly missed out on qualifying for the elite Asian Tour golf recently, 2009 Indian Open winner C Muniyappa, Sanjay Kumar and England's Steve Lewton were tied fifth after carding a matching 68.
Two-time defending champion, Anirban Lahiri faltered on his back nine to bring home a card of two-under 70, along with Mukesh kumar to lie tied 21st. Among prominent names, Jyoti Randhawa, Manav Jaini, Rahil Gangjee and Himmat Rai -- all carded one-under 71 to lie tied 28th.
The day belonged to Rashid as he braved the early morning chill and set ablaze the course after making back-to-back birdies in the first two holes. After four par holes, he picked up two more strokes at the seventh and eighth holes.
Rashid hardly put a foot wrong as he kept his shots close to the pin, and on his back nine picked up a stroke at the 11th before sinking a 20-feet birdie putt at the 13th hole. The Indian then used a three-wood rescue and knocked down a 14-feet putt at the par 5 14th hole to bring up the eagle. He ended the day with three more birdies in the last four holes at the 15th, 16th and 18th.
"I shot the best round of my career. My last best score here was an eight-under in SAIL Open last year. Of course, I hit nine-under in Sri Lanka at the Standard Chartered Open a couple of weeks ago but I have bettered it today," said Rashid, who finished runner-up at the 2013 SAIL-SBI Open after losing in a playoff to Lahiri.
"This is my opening event of the Asian Tour and this is my first year as a card holder on the Asian Tour and it's great to start the season in this manner. Winning a tournament on the Asian Tour is my main goal this year. I've improved with every passing year and I want to do the same in 2014," said Rashid, who claimed the number one position on the 2013 Rolex Rankings.
Mithun, who fired an eagle at the eighth hole and birdies at 7, 9, 10, 13 and 18th holes, the only blot being the bogey at the 15th, said: "I came into the tournament supremely confident with two victories and then scored the best card here at DGC. So it was a good day."
Lahiri said: "I could have made more birdies. I made four birdies and two bogeys. I am disappointed I could not cover any ground. I lost my concentration in back nine. I am disappoint but I will take a two-under. I have to shoot really low score tomorrow."
Siddikur said: "I always look for a five-under score in each round. So if I can do that, I can still win, if I don't then also no problem. I had seven birdies and two bogeys. My putting was not so good. I missed a few short putts.