Spanish Agustin Domingo he set a new course record on the opening day of the third edition of the Gujarat Kensville Challenge 2013 at Kensville Golf and Country club in Ahmedabad on Thursday. He took a one-shot lead over Shiv Kapur (in pic) and Scotsman Andrew McArthur.
Three other Indians, Amardip Sinh Malik, Om Prakash Chouhan and Vishal Singh had two-under 70 each in tied 12th place, while 2011 champion Gaganjeet Bhullar, Rashid Khan and Himmat Rai were at one-under 71 each in tied 20th place. Last year's runner-up Rahil Gangjee carded even par 72. The drawcard of the tournament, Rich Beem, the 2002 PGA Champion, shot one-over 73.
Domingo, who had four top-10 finishes on the Challenge Tour last season, was progressing sedately over the front nine as he had first eight holes with one birdie and one bogey. He then exploded into action from the ninth, which he birdied.
Turning in one-under, he birdied five times more without any lapses and came back with handsome dividends in the form of a six-under 66. Kapur, who won his last start at the end of 2012, and had a top-10 here in 2012, had a flawless five-under 67 in the evening, while McArthur, whose lone Challenge Tour win came in 2008 in Spain, had as many as eight birdies, but he also dropped three shots, one of them on the ninth, his closing hole. Kapur was not too happy with his putting, but was pleased that he did not drop any shots.
"I should have gone further up, had I not missed some putts today. I struggled with my putting and the longest was six feet on the 17th. But I compensated it with my good driving and that made my day," said Kapur, who interestingly held the lead after the first round in the 2012 edition.
"The greens are smoother and the course is receptive than last year. If it remains same, the winning total can go to the 12 to 15-under, but if gets firmer by the weekend, the scores will shoot up," added Kapur, who ended his seven-year long title drought by winning the Shubhkamna Champions Golf in December.
Kapur got his first birdie on par-five sixth hole from five feet but then had to wait till the 10th for his next one, where he tapped for a birdie. He hit the greenside bunker on 14th but did well to come up with a third birdie. He followed that with another on the 15th, and then went five-under with a six-footer on 17th.
Domingo, who held an European Tour card last season, may well have gone even lower than 66 but for a couple of missed putts. "I started well but didn't make many birdie putts. I chipped in from 20 metres at the second hole for birdie and then missed a short putt at the fifth. I missed a short putt at the fourth and missed a drive at the seventh and had to drop it and made bogey.
"Then I birdied the 10th, 12th and 13th and finished with birdies at the 17th and 18th. The last two were really good putts, five metres and seven metres." He added, "I'm really happy that I had a course record. I had one as an amateur at a new course way back when I was young so this is the first time since then.
"I didn't expect to have such a good day." He added, "I watched the football last night, I am a huge Barcelona fan. The match ended at 3.15 in the morning and then I went to bed until about 10.30 this morning and it all went well. The weather is the best thing about coming here. Barcelona is not too cold but you're still practicing with plenty of clothing on so playing in this weather, hot and with no wind, is perfect."
He went on to say, "The only thing I will change for tomorrow is I will try and sleep a little more! Then it's just a case of doing the same and we'll see what happens."
"Last year I had a European Tour card but then I missed a lot of cuts early on so then I came back to the Challenge Tour and try to keep a category for this year. I finished 60th in the Challenge Tour and then I almost got a card from Q-School again but finished two shots back. Now I am hoping to have a good year now on the Challenge Tour to get a better category for The European Tour and it was a perfect start!"
Five birdies in the opening six holes gave Andrew McArthur a flying start. McArthur, who finished 45th in the Challenge Tour Rankings last year, was on fire, holing a thirty footer at the 10th - his first - for birdie. He followed that up by rolling a 12 footer into the cup on the 12th before another 30 footer from the back fringe at the 13th dropped and two more birdies at the 14th and 15th holes meant he roared into an early lead at the sun-kissed Kensville Golf and Country Club, outside Ahmedabad in western India.
McArthur was wearing running trainers instead of golf shoes as he had hurt his foot. "I was travelling in flip-flops and getting off the bus I caught my heel on the step and it took a chunk of skin so I tried those heel supports but I couldn't even get my golf shoes on. Because the golf shoes are so rigid it was very painful so I have trainers on.
"I'm hoping I can get a pair of golf shoes on by the end of the week. I had a shot out of a bunker today and I nearly fell over!
"I just got off to a flyer and before I knew it I was five under after six," said the 33 year old. "Then I started pulling a couple of iron shots but I bounced back with some decent shots as well and holed another couple of 15 footers but I didn't hit it close all day.
"I have done a lot of work since the middle of last year on my putting. I was struggling and I went to (putting coach) Phil Kenyon for some help," he said.