Randhawa, Mukesh turn the clock back, share lead

Jyoti Randhawa and Mukesh Kumar held off the challenge from the younger breed of golfers, and ended the day tied at top.

Mukesh Kumar in action during the day one of the Panasonic Open.   -  Special Arrangement

The world loves a ‘sentimental favourite’ in sports as experience is valued over energy and exuberance.

In this context, if the sport is golf and the venue, Delhi Golf Club, then the prospects of Jyoti Randhawa and Mukesh Kumar can never be discounted.

If Randhawa, 44, remains the most successful golfer in the dollar-events held in the country, Mukesh, 51, surely merits a mention for being the most successful with over 100 titles on the domestic tour.

On Thursday, after fog delayed the start of the $400,000 Panasonic Open by four hours, Randhawa, and Mukesh provided fresh evidences of their ability to carry on, more on experience and irrespective of form.

The veterans shot rounds of five-under 67 and stayed three strokes ahead of the competition after only 59 out of 120 players could complete their rounds. To make up for the lost time, it has been decided to resume the first round at 7 am on Friday, followed by the scheduled second round. Should there be another spell of fog, further loss of playing time is a certainty.

Once the action commenced, the consistency of Randhawa and Mukesh knocked out Lucknow’s Sanjeev Kumar from the pedestal after the Lucknow-based golfer took the lead with three-under before finishing at 71.

Defending champion Chiragh Kumar and S. Chikkarangappa (71 each) were far better placed than Jeev Milkha Singh (75) and Shiv Kapur (80). Arjun Atwal and young Shubhankar Sharma were level-par after playing five holes.

On this day, Randhawa’s tied-fourth finish at Manila Masters (won by S. S. P. Chowrasia) and Mukesh’s triumph in this year’s Chennai Open, reflected their self-belief.

If Mukesh started from the 10th tee with a hat-trick of birdies, Randhawa ended his round in a similar fashion on the 18th. In all, Randhawa fired six birdies against a bogey while Mukesh had seven birdies and two bogeys. Strangely, both dropped a stroke on the par-3 12th.

“My hitting was decent today, however, not as good as I would’ve liked. I liked my birdie on the 16th hole,” said Randhawa as he referred to a fine low 4-iron approach shot before finding the hole from 30 feet.”

Mukesh, whose personal count of titles stands at a whopping 123 and wishes to retire after reaching 125, said, “I was hitting it close on the back-nine but on the front-nine, I managed to sink three long putts from 10 to 15 feet. I also made a good recovery from the bushes on the sixth but drained a 15-footer for bogey.”

The scores (of completed sub-par rounds):

Jyoti Randhawa, Mukesh Kumar 67; Sutjet Kooratanapisan (Tha) 70, Sanjeev Kumar, Chiragh Kumar, Brett Munson (USA), S. Chikkarangappa, M. Dharma, Shankar Das, Vikrant Chopra, Manav Jaini and Gaurav Pratap Singh 71.