Shanghai: Next year’s European Tour card in his pocket and a huge burden off his shoulders, Jyoti Randhawa carded a sparkling four-under 68 to lie tied ninth even though none of his compatriots could manage sub-par cards in the first round of the WGC-HSBC Champions golf tournament here on Thursday.
Among others, top ranked Indian Jeev Milkha Singh carded one-over 73 to lie tied 48th, while youngsters C Muniyappa and Gaganjeet Bhullar shared the 57th place at two-over 74 in the USD seven million event.
American Nick Watney, a two-time winner on the US PGA Tour, upstaged the stars with a course-record equaling eight-under 64 to grab the lead but world number one Tiger Woods was lurking three shots back at the Sheshan International Golf Club here.
Randhawa went into the tournament not in the best of form and the 2002 Asia number one was particularly unhappy with his swing.
“I got my swing back into the groove after a long time and it felt good. I putted well, just coming in I wished I made a few more putts as the greens were fast and true but it’s the best that I’ve hit it in the past two or three months. I’m really happy,” said Randhawa.
Entering the week in 115th place on the European Tour, Randhawa knows that his card will be locked up after this week’s event which has no halfway cut and that allowed him to play with a free mind.
“It was at the back of my mind and not being able to swing the way I wanted to plays on your mind. Right now, I’m really comfortable and I’ve got my card for next year. I’ll try to freewheel it this week and hope it works. I’m feeling good,” he said.
Randhawa got off to a superb birdie-birdie start and but for the 15th hole bogey, did not put a foot wrong, draining three more birdies on his way back.
Jeev, a 10th tee starter, was one-under after the back nine before things went haywire in the other nine where he bogeyed the three of the first six holes to go two-over before minimising the damage with the eighth hole birdie.
Indian Open champion Muniyappa birdied the second hole to go one-under but dropped four strokes over the next four holes and could not recover from there.
Bhullar’s round included three birdies, a couple of double bogeys and a bogey.