November 16, 2006 – Jyoti Randhawa flew the flag for Asia with a sizzling six-under-par 64 on the first day of the US$2 million UBS Hong Kong Open.
The rising Indian star fired seven birdies against a lone bogey at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling on Thursday to share the lead with Spain’s Jose Manuel Lara.
The duo finished the day one shot ahead of a trio of players – China’s Liang Wenchong, England’s Graeme Storm and Gregory Bourdy of France.
Randhawa – aiming to become the first Asian to win the title since 1998 – ended his round in style with a spectacular birdie on Fanling’s notoriously difficult par-four 18th when his second shot rolled to within inches of the pin, leaving him with a simple tap-in.
“I missed birdie chances on the 16th and 17th, so I got myself together on the final hole,” he said. “I almost holed it with my second shot using a nine iron. Commitment to my shot and executing it with conviction was what made that birdie on the last hole.”
Randhawa – the son of a retired army general and an expert marksman – is seeking his first European Tour win after six victories on the Asian Tour, his most recent coming at the Hero Honda Indian Open last month.
“I’ve learnt to handle the mental side of the game. It requires more than just swinging the golf club and I’ve too been much into the technique,” he explained.
“I played alongside Tiger Woods in Shanghai last week and I learnt a lot. I learnt to handle myself better. I knew that today I had to stay focused in the present and it turned out well.”
Lara, too, is looking for his maiden European Tour win after a string of near misses – four runner-up spots and three third places. But he insisted it was not playing on his mind.
“I just try to do my job and play my own golf and not worry about what other people say,” he said.
“I can feel something is coming but it is too early to talk about a win. I started well, which makes things easier, but there is a long way to go.
“I’ve been leading big tournaments before and can feel I’m there. I’ve been a little unlucky. I’ll try and make it four rounds steady.”
Lara, who had six birdies in a bogey-free round, was delighted with his putting in the UBS Hong Kong Open, which is co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours.
“I putted so well. The greens are a little softer and that helps to make the scores better. This is my third time playing this course and this is in the best condition I have seen it.”
A quintet of players shot 66, two behind the leaders, while Hong Kong’s James Stewart delighted the Fanling galleries with a 67 to eclipse the tournament big guns.
UBS Hong Kong Open defending champion Colin Montgomerie finished with a one-under 69 and bemoaned his putting.
“I lipped out on the last, lipped out on 17, unbelievable,” said the Scot. “I’m striking the ball fine – I just didn’t score.”
Two-time US Open champion Retief Goosen also struggled on the greens. “Played well, putted bad,” said the South African after an even-par 70. “Hopefully tomorrow they will start dropping.”
New Zealand’s Michael Campbell fared better with a 68 but revealed that a knee problem was causing him discomfort. “I’m lucky I’m actually playing,” said the 2005 US Open champion.
“I hurt my right ankle in the pro-am. I‘ve had a lot of treatment and it’s all strapped up now. I was thinking about it all day. I can’t really follow through. I will try and get through this week and get more treatment on it.”
Leading first round scores:
64 – Jose Manuel Lara (ESP), Jyoti Randhawa (IND).
65 – Gregory Bourdy (FRA), Graeme Storm (ENG), Liang Wenchong (CHN).
66 – Jeev Milkha Singh (IND), Jarmo Sandelin (SWE), Suk Jong Yul (KOR), Simon Khan (ENG), Adam Blyth (AUS).
67 – Park Jun-Won (KOR), David Bransdon (AUS), Johan Axgren (SWE), Hendrik Buhrmann (RSA), Juvic Pagunsan (PHI), Lee Sung (KOR), Andrew Buckle (AUS), Simon Yates (SCO), James Stewart (HKG).
68 – Martin Kaymer (GER), Miguel Angel Jimenez (ESP), Jean Van de Velde (FRA), Michael Campbell (NZL), Bryan Saltus (USA), Thongchai Jaidee (THA), Thaworn Wiratchant (THA), Scott Strange (AUS), Francesco Molinari (ITA), Christian Cevaer (FRA), Damien McGrane (IRL), Rick Gibson (CAN), Thammanoon Srirot (THA), Chinarat Phadungsil (THA), Phillip Price (WAL), Gary Rusnak (USA), Cesar Monasterio (ARG), Robert-Jan Derksen (NLD), Clay Devers (USA), Ron Won (USA), Martin Rominger (SUI).