Thailand's Chapchai Nirat launched his quest to end a four-year win-less run with a superb six-under-par 66 to share the first round lead with Indian rookie Khalin Joshi at the SAIL-SBI Open golf here Wednesday.
Chapchai, nicknamed "King Kong" due to his big-hitting game, fired eight birdies against two bogeys at the demanding Delhi Golf Club while the 20-year-old Joshi raised local cheers with a magnificent professional debut on the Asian Tour with nine birdies on the card.
The leading duo hold a one-shot lead from Qualifying School winner Chan Kim of the United States while a further stroke back are India's Chiragh Kumar and Bangladeshi ace Siddikur, who signed for 68s in the $300,000 tournament.
Home hero Shiv Kapur, chasing a first victory on his home course, produced a magical outward 29 but came home in 40 after taking a quadruple bogey eight on the sixth hole to settle for a 69, three shots from the lead.
The 29-year-old Chapchai is chasing his fourth Asian Tour victory, his last being the SAIL-SBI Open in 2009 when he set a new world record for 72-holes with his winning 32-under-par 256 total.
"My putting was very good. I made a lot of one putts, probably took 27 or 28 putts," said Chapchai, who played alongside Kapur.
"Shiv played well on our front nine (on the back) and then I played well coming in. I stuck to my game plan. It's a tough course as the fairways are narrow. But if you hit fairways, you can make birdies."
The powerful Thai was disappointed he dropped bogeys via three putts on the 10th and ninth holes but believes his new putting routine is pushing him towards a return to the winner's enclosure.
After ending 2012 as India's number one amateur, Joshi took the plunge into the play-for-pay ranks and won the PGTI's qualifying school. He missed his card at the Asian Tour Qualifying School in January but victory Saturday will certainly fast-track his career.
"It will mean the world to me if I can win my first Asian Tour tournament as a pro. I'm looking forward to it," said Joshi, who hails from Bangalore and looks up to title holder Anirban Lahiri, who is also from Bangalore.
The slender Indian produced a blazing finish, nearly shooting a hole-in-one on his 16th hole of the day at the seventh and missing an eagle chance from 12 feet at the next hole. He then slid a 10-foot birdie attempt past the cup for the outright lead.