Bhullar off to a solid start in Japan, lies sixth with 4-under 67

Rahil Gangjee, who ended his 14-year-old title drought in Japan this year at the Panasonic Open Japan in April, shot three-under 68 to be tied 15th.

Gaganjeet Bhullar is however still four shots behind the leader Daijiro Izumid. (File Photo)   -  GETTY IMAGES

Gaganjeet Bhullar, who has been on a fine run this season, continued his excellent form as he opened the Asia-Pacific Diamond Cup on Thursday with a solid four-under 67 to be placed tied sixth after the first day.

Bhullar, who has had eight top 10s this year, including a superb win in the Fiji International, is however still four shots behind the leader Daijiro Izumida (63) and Thai Danthai Boonma, both of whom fired an identical six-under-par 65 at the Musashi Country Club.

While Bhullar stayed hot, other Indians had a mixed day.

Rahil Gangjee, who ended his 14-year-old title drought in Japan this year at the Panasonic Open Japan in April, shot three-under 68 to be tied 15th, while Ajeetesh Sandhu, who won a Japan Challenge Tour event last year, carded two-under 69 and was tied 22nd.

Shiv Kapur, Viraj Madappa and Arjun Atwal carded one-over 72 each to be tied 69th, while Chiragh Kumar shot 73 to be tied 82nd and Rashid Khan (75) dropped two doubles and was tied 111.

Bhullar has been focusing on keeping the ball in play and stick to fairways and get to the greens in regulation to give himself more chances.

On Thursday he found only 50 per cent fairways but managed more than 77 per cent greens in regulation and needed 28 putts.

Danthai, a winner on the Asian Tour, shared second place alongside Yuki Inamori and Hiroshi Iwata while Thai veteran Prayad Marksaeng was a further shot back in fifth place at the tournament sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour Organization (JGTO).

Alongside Bhullar there was in-form Justin Harding of South Africa and Scott Vincent of Zimbabwe, who also shot matching 67s to be tied 6th.

The 25-year-old Izumida turned in 30 on the front nine and returned three birdies against one bogey to set the pace.

Prayad, a 10-time Asian Tour champion and multiple winner in Japan, traded six birdies against one bogey to give himself a chance of winning the tournament for the second time since 2008.

At the age of 52, Prayad rolled back the years with a commendable performance among the younger players.

He has won five titles on the Japan Seniors Tour in 2018 and will be looking to add a second Diamond Cup trophy following his win in 2008.