Nine birdie Karlberg cruises into lead
Asian Tour rookie Richard Karlberg of Sweden overcame fatigue and jetlag to seize the first round lead with an impressive seven-under-par 65 at the SAIL Open on Tuesday.
Karlberg, who arrived here on Monday afternoon from Kenya, posted nine birdies against two bogeys to open up a one-stroke lead from Thailand’s Chinnarat Phadungsil and India’s S.S.P. Chowrasia in the US$300,000 full field event held at Delhi Golf Club.
Local stalwarts Shiv Kapur, who has won once on the Asian Tour, and unheralded Shamim Khan are tied fourth after matching 67s while Gaganjeet Bhullar, winner of the season-opening Asian Tour International in Bangkok, and veteran Gaurav Ghei of India and Mark Purser of New Zealand are a further stroke back.
“I was so tired when I arrived but I rushed out to play my practice round as fast as I could. I’m lucky to tee off in the afternoon or else I wouldn’t have been able to wake up!” said the 23-year-old Karlberg.
Karlberg, who won the Swedish domestic tour Order of Merit in 2007, wielded a hot putter where he needed only 22 putts and sprinkled six birdies on his back nine.
“I usually drop a couple of shots on the back nine. So I just kept in mind of what the winning score would be, which I predicted to be at 14 or 15-under-par. I kept reminding myself and started making more birdies. That got me aggressive and kept me going,” said Karlberg, who has won four times in Sweden.
Chinnarat, who holds the distinction of being the youngest winner on the Asian Tour when he won the Double A International Open on home soil at the age of 17 in 2005, turned in 34 and then produced an eagle on the first hole after his five wood approach landed 15 feet from the hole to sign off with a 66.
“That (eagle) is one of the key reasons why I shot such a good score but I’m slightly disappointed because I missed some short putts,” said the 21-year-old three-time Asian Tour winner.
“I changed my swing when I played at the Asian Tour International and didn’t play well. But I’m more confident with my swing now and I’m slowly getting back to my best form. I just need to sink more putts,” added the Thai.
Chowrasia, who claimed his first Asian Tour title on the same venue in 2008, was delighted to continue his rich vein of form as he won a local event three weeks ago. The self-taught golfer, nicknamed “Chipputtsia” because of his superb short game, was delighted to close with four consecutive birdies.
“The victory earlier this month has done wonders for my confidence and I am feeling very good about my game at the moment. I had a memorable win at the Delhi Golf Club in 2008 and I hope I can repeat that performance this time around,” said Chowrasia.
Purser got off to a bright start after his 30 foot chip on the first hole went in for eagle. He credited his good start after reviewing his swing through a video camera. “I compared a video of my recent performance and found some problems in my swing. That helped and it feels great to be back in form. I finished fourth in this tournament last season so maybe I will be able to top that,” said Purser, whose father was a badminton doubles bronze medallist at the 1978 Edmonton Commonwealth Games.
Leading first round scores:
65 - Richard KARLBERG (SWE)
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