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Defending champ Harendra one adrift of leader
Sakal Times | Friday, 21 April 2017 AT 12:52 PM IST
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Pune: It may have been three years since he last played in Pune, but defending Pune Open champion Harendra Gupta showed he was rooted well enough to face the vagaries of weather and the challenges offered by renovated course at the Poona Club Golf Course.

Harendra made a confident start by logging three-under 68 to be tied second with two others and just one shot adrift of the leader, Sudhir Sharma.

He pulled off a magical recovery for birdie on the opening hole where he had a blind second shot from the adjoining fairway and managed to land it 17 feet from the pin thanks to a low hook and converted the putt.
Three more birdies and a bogey followed for Harendra, who is playing the 2017 season with a new set of irons.

“I played the first five holes really well but then there was a flurry of missed opportunities. So it was a kind of mixed day for me. The superb recovery on the first hole was crucial. Had that second shot gone wrong, I could’ve been in deep trouble and may have ended up with an over-par score. It’s now about building on the decent start,” is how Harendra described his round.

With gusty winds blowing across the course, high scores were evident, but Greater Noida golfer Sudhir Sharma assumed lead with a resolute round of 67. Following him were the trio of Harendra Gupta, Khalin Joshi and KPS Sekhon.

Sudhir, a two-time winner on the PGTI Feeder Tour, began the week with a splendid up and down for a par-save on the first.

The 29-year-old, working on returning to his old swing after a year’s gap, struck it well on the front-nine to set up some short birdie putts, including four from within five feet.

After making the turn at four-under, he had a quieter back-nine which featured a birdie and a bogey each. His longest putt of the day was the 22-feet birdie conversion on the 15th.

“It’s the kind of start I was looking for. I started well last week as well but slipped towards the end of the tournament after some poor hitting. My driving was good today and I hit it pretty close on a number of occasions thus negating the tough scoring conditions,” said Sharma.

“However, it was a little disappointing to miss some birdie opportunities towards the close of the round. I missed out from 10 feet and less on the last three holes. It’s all about confidence now. Playing one shot at a time and focusing hard will be the key now,” added Sharma.

Sekhon made an astonishing recovery despite an early triple bogey on the 11th, his second hole of the day, where he had found the hazard, to post a 68.

He was at two-over through 13 holes when he came up with a dream run of five straight birdies to end up with an impressive three-under.

The scores: Sudhir Sharma 67; KPS Sekhon, Khalin Joshi and Harendra Gupta 68; Mari Muthu R, Digvijay Singh, Angad Cheema, Honey Baisoya, Shankar Das, Samarth Dwivedi, Shamim Khan and Damian Naicker 69; Himmat Singh Rai, Rudresh Sharma, Sanjeev Kumar (L), C Muniyappa, Manu Gandas, Aditya Raj Kumar Chauhan, Karan Taunk, K Prabagaran and Pawan Kumar 70; Vishal Singh, Kapil Kumar, Manav Jaini, Sujjan Singh, Om Prakash Chouhan, Ajeetesh Sandhu, Gurki Shergill, N Thangaraja, Anil Bajrang Mane, Anura Rohana, Syed Saqib Ahmed 71.


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