PGTI: Mukesh Kumar makes stunning return

Mukesh Kumar, who was second on the money list last year, missed the cut at the season-opening CIAL Cochin Open after injuring his left hand.

Mukesh Kumar made three birdies on the front nine before reeling off five on the back stretch.   -  Special Arrangement

Mukesh Kumar staged a stunning revival here on Tuesday after missing the cut in Kochi last week, firing an eight-under-64 to grab the lead after the first round of the PGTI Players' Championship.

The veteran finished one shot ahead of the trio of Udayan Mane, Shivendra Singh Sisodia and Shubhankar Sharma at the Eagleton Golf Resort. S. Chikkarangappa carded five-under-67 to tie for fifth with Kapil Kumar.

Mukesh, who was second on the money list last year, missed the cut at the season-opening CIAL Cochin Open after injuring his left hand. He vowed to bounce back stronger and produced a bogey-free round here. The 50-year-old from Mhow made three birdies on the front nine before reeling off five on the back stretch.

“This is my best score at Eagleton and therefore quite a satisfying round,” Mukesh said afterwards. “I was consistently landing it close and even narrowly missed an eagle from 10 feet on the seventh. I also missed two easy birdie putts from three feet. I think the winning score could go to 20 to 22 under this week.”

Mane, playing on his home course, started on the 10th and stormed off the blocks, racing to six-under at the turn. “I bogeyed the 12th after missing a putt from four feet. It was an easy putt. I was annoyed with myself and just decided I had to make birdies,” he said. The front nine was not as kind to the 24-year-old, though, as he gained only one more stroke.

Chikkarangappa, the local favourite, only made his way up the leaderboard after making a string of three birdies from 15 through 17. “That run put a little bit of smile on my face,” he said later. “I didn't hit the ball well at all. Everything lipped out and I was really frustrated. I'm not happy with my overall play.”

One shot behind Chikkarangappa and Kapil, there was a logjam of 12 players in seventh place.

Scores (top six after round one): 64: Mukesh Kumar; 65: Udayan Mane, Shivendra Singh Sisodia, Shubhankar Sharma; 67: S. Chikkarangappa, Kapil Kumar.