Led by Siddikur, the top 4 show their liking for the course at The DGC Open
Khel Today Bureau
New Delhi: Siddikur Rahman, who has one of the finest records at the Delhi Golf Club, continued his love affair with the iconic course as he fired a bogey-free seven-under 65 to take a two-shot lead after the first round of the USD 750,000 The DGC Open presented by Mastercard.
Siddikur was trailed by a trio that included two-time Asian Tour winner Rashid Khan, the defending champion Nitithorn Thippong and Filipino Justin Quiban, who all shot 67 each. Like Siddikur, Rashid’s effort was also bogey-free.
Familiarity with the DGC as a venue was the common thread between the top four, as three of them had won their maiden Asian Tour title at this venue.
Siddikur, Rashid and Nitithorn have won twice each on the Asian Tour and one of those wins has come at this venue for all three. Quiban is yet to win on the Asian tour, but his career-best finish was at this venue at the 2022 edition of The DGC Open last year
Siddikur won the Hero Indian Open at this venue in 2013, while Rashid Khan won the SAIL-SBI Open at DGC where incidentally Siddikur was the runner-up. Though Siddikur and Rashid won on the old layout but showed that they are quite at home with the re-design done of the fabled Lodhi Course by Gary Player.
Nitithorn won last year on the new layout and Quiban logged a fifth place, one of his two Top-10s on the Asian Tour.
Coming into this event, Siddikur was thrilled to be back at his favourite course after a long gap. The last time he played an event here was in 2018, when he was second at the Panasonic Open India. Overall, Siddikur has 13 Top-10 finishes in 16 starts at the DGC. Besides one win, he has four other runner-up finishes at the DGC.
On a low-scoring day, six players were tied for the fifth place with 68 each. The group included another Indian S Chikkarangappa, who was tied sixth last week in Thailand. The bunch also included Varun Chopra, an Indian-born, who has now migrated to the US but plays on the Indian Tour.
Siddikur, who had birdies on the first and eighth turned in two-under and then exploded on the back nine with five birdies in the last seven holes.
He smiled as he said, “I love the Delhi Golf Club course and I have always enjoyed playing here with some good results including a win. So, it was a wonderful day. I’m hitting really well and at the same time I am putting well.”
He added, “I have been working on my technique, my fitness, my mental training. At the new course, the layout is the same but the all greens are a little different. But I think I like these greens more than before.”
Rashid who started on the tenth and had nine pars to begin, said, “It wasn’t great, the way I started the round. I have been working on some things.”
He went on, “I had a back injury around November and after that I lost my touch so I was really scared to hit shots because of my back. I had to change my swing a little and it was all handy. Right now also it’s there but I’m working on something which I really wanted and Ashok Kumar (another Indian pro) showed me the path.”
On his second nine, he had five birdies. Talking about his tentativeness over last few months, he added, “I was in that situation in the first nine holes, but I managed it very well. On the back nine, I had a good birdie on the first and then finishing with the last three birdies was great. You know that gives you confidence and that’s what I needed.”
Nitithorn, looking to retain the Lal Bangla Trophy, said, “I struggled a bit on my approach shot midway through the round, but I managed.”
“Yeah, I’m looking for my title defence but just don’t want to push myself so much. Like last year, I just want to play 66 every day. That’s my strategy. The conditions are very nice out there.”
Indian-American, Varun Chopra, who had a bogey start finally finished 4-under. He said, “I got off to a bogey on the first hole at the 10. And honestly, I rebounded really well on that nine with six birdies in the next eight holes, so that was awesome.”
Four players including Indian amateur Yuvraj Singh were tied for 11th at 3-under. Overall, 40 players shot under par scores and another 16 players, including SSP Chawrasia, who has won three Asian Tour titles at the DGC, shot even par 72 each to be tied 41st.