Lahiri Leads Strong Indian Assault at SAIL Open

New Delhi, March 23 (IANS) The Indian challenge looked strong on the opening day as Anirban Lahiri led the field at the SAIL Open after shooting a sparkling six-under-par 66 Tuesday. Lahiri kept his driver out of his golf bag and this paid off as he took a one stroke lead at the challenging Delhi Golf Club.

Among the other Indians were Gaganjeet Bhullar (68) one shot behind Lahiri, while Manav Jaini, who was in contention for Indian Open at the same venue last December, was at 69. Jyoti Randhawa, Mukesh Kumar and Sanjay Kumar were among those who shot 70 each.

Japanese Daisuke Maruyama put his troubles at home behind as he returned with 67 to share second place with in-form Gaganjeet Bhullar and little known Anura Rohana of Sri Lanka in the $300,000 event co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and PGTI.

Big hitting Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, who is searching for his maiden Asian Tour victory, shared fourth place with countryman Prom Meesawat, India's Manav Jaini, Japanese Akinori Tani and Bangladeshi Siddikur.

Highly rated Miguel Tabuena of the Philippines made a flying start to his one week old professional career as he posted a 69, three strokes from the leader.

Lahiri said it was the first time in 11 years since he opted against using a driver and he had five birdies and one eagle against one bogey for his best score at the Delhi Golf Club.

"I'm hitting my three wood and that's good enough. I decided yesterday evening to take my driver out. It was partly because this golf course has narrow fairways and also because I haven't been hitting it very well with my driver," said the 23-year-old.

He was delighted with his strong start but admitted that he could have gone lower. "I missed about six putts inside 12 feet for birdie but I'm not complaining. I'm just happy I'm giving myself a lot of scoring opportunities," he said.

Maruyama turned in 37 but bounced back brilliantly with six birdies in his homeward nine. The two-time Asian Tour winner, together with the seven other Japanese players, will be playing this week with a black ribbon pinned to their caps to honour the lives lost in the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan.

"I had a lot of time to think about playing in the SAIL Open this week and I finally decided to play. It wasn't an easy decision to make but life in Japan is not easy now with the shortage of water and irregular electricity supply," said the Japanese.

Playing in his first Asian Tour event as a professional, Tabuena, 16, was delighted to outshine some of the more experienced players.

"I want to go out there and try my best. It shows that I can compete with the bigger guys. I'm not expecting much but it was a good result for me today," said Tabuena.

Tabuena earned his Asian Tour in Qualifying School earlier this year as an amateur before deciding to take his career to a new level. He said working with decorated Canadian coach Rick Gibson has helped him adapt faster to life as a professional.

"I've been working with Rick and that has been good because of his experience playing on the Asian Tour. There's still three more days to go but this course suits me as I'm not a long hitter and like to keep the ball in play. I'm looking forward to the next few days," added the Filipino.


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