PGTI Eagleburg Masters: Dharma takes lead

M. Dharma chipped well around the greens on Tuesday, although his putting, he felt, ought to have been better. "I narrowly missed two putts for eagle (on 4 and 15). I need to work on my short game," he said.

M Dharma PGTI Eagleburg Masters

"After the bogey on the 10th, I was really angry. So I focused and made five birdies in a row," said Day one leader M. Dharma.   -  Shreedutta Chidananda

M. Dharma spent the last three weeks training seven hours a day at the Eagleton Golf Resort. All that work appeared to have paid off on Tuesday as the 30-year-old claimed a one-stroke lead in the opening round of the PGTI Eagleburg Masters here. Dharma's seven-under-par-65, the highlight of which was a string of five straight birdies on the back nine, put him ahead of Shankar Das (66), with Honey Baisoya, S. Chikkarangappa and Khalin Joshi (67) tied for third.

A caddie-turned-pro, Dharma revealed that his routine over the previous 20 days had been to leave home at 5:30 a.m., make the long journey to Eagleton, and train in the company of Chikkarangappa and his coach Vijay Divecha. "Chikka urged me to practise with him," he said after his round. "'What're you doing, man? Your game has to improve. Come and train,' he would tell me."

Dharma chipped well around the greens on Tuesday, although his putting, he felt, ought to have been better. "I narrowly missed two putts for eagle (on 4 and 15). I need to work on my short game," he said. "After the bogey on the 10th, I was really angry. So I focused and made five birdies in a row."

Dharma felt he had failed to get to grips with the greens, but he was not the only one. "I judged the green speed and the line bad today," said Chikkarangappa, who carded a bogey-free five-under. "I hit the ball extremely well; I made all 18 greens in regulation. But I didn't convert even one of my three eagle chances. The lines are a little bit off. I've made notes now. Things should be better over the next three days."

One shot behind the bunch in third was the trio of Rahil Gangjee, Udayan Mane, and Vipin Raghuvanshi. Shubhankar Sharma, who had won the PGTI Players' Championship here in February, endured a difficult day, shooting three over. Meanwhile, the defending champion, Rashid Khan, pulled out of the event, having been unable to make it here in time from the European Masters in Switzerland.

The scores (top eight after 18 holes): 65: M. Dharma; 66: Shankar Das; 67: Honey Baisoya, S. Chikkarangappa, Khalin Joshi; 68: Rahil Gangjee, Udayan Mane, Vipin Raghuvanshi.