Gurgaon: Spectacular with his driving skills, Ajeetesh Sandhu emerged the best Indian golfer with a solid four-under 68 as most of his compatriots endured a frustrating opening round at the Hero Indian Open on a tricky DLF Golf course here on Thursday.
The 29-year-old, who had won his maiden Asian Tour event last year at the Yeangder Tournament Players Championship before clinching the Taiheiyo Club Challenge Tournament in Japan Tour, stayed three strokes adrift of leader Argentina's Emiliano Grillo, who scored seven-under 65.
With many golfers being tested by the Gary Player-designed course, the afternoon start was delayed due to the "severity of the course" and "rulings", eventually rendering the opening round incomplete.
Former champion Arjun Atwal was one-under 71, while Udayan Mane (two-under at 16th hole), and amateur Kshitij Naveed Kaul (two-under at 17th hole) were the other Indians out of the 39 in the field to be under-par. Two-time defending champion SSP Chawrasia (74), 2015 winner Anirban Lahiri (72), and former Indian champions Jyoti Randhawa (72) and Feroz Ali (one over at 14th hole) had a tough day in office.
While Thailand's Danthai Boonma (71) rued losing four strokes in his last hole (18th) after leading in the morning to slip down the leaderboard, Argentina's Emiliano Grillo, who won the 2015 Frys.Com Open in the PGA tour, rose to the top with a seven-under 65 as the day progressed.
"I almost had to play perfect golf out there. It's a very difficult golf course. I'm very happy with the way I handled myself out there. It was very tough and I was able to make some good putts and hit the fairways when I needed to," Grillo said.
"As I say I had to play almost perfect golf. I putted very well. I had, I think, 26 putts and that helps anyone's round out there. Hopefully, I can keep rolling them in. I've just got to keep the ball in play, that's what matters around here."
Pablo Larrazabal barely made it to the course on time after waking up 38 minutes before tee-time but yet he managed a five-under 67 to share the second spot with Adrien Saddier, Keith Horne, Paul Petersen and Matteo Manassero.
Meanwhile, Shubhankar Sharma, who catapulted to the top bracket with two European tour titles and a tied 9th finish at World Golf Championship, recovered from a disastrous start to card a one-over 73.
Khalin Joshi and Aman Raj too were at even-par 72 to share the 37th spot in the unfinished round.
Among others, veteran Jeev Milkha Singh went eight-over and is likely to miss the cut.
Sandhu was very precise as he fired five birdies against a bogey to return with a solid round.
"You can't overpower the course, I hit amazing today. I hit 17 greens and didn't miss a single fairway. The green that I missed was just by a foot, so it was phenomenal," said Sandhu.
"The scoring was good today, there was no wind and it helped. The field is deep and I think I missed a few putts at 17 and 18, all three-four putts which were makeable."
Shubhankar made a fantastic recovery after three bogeys and a double bogey left him five over at the turn but the Indian blasted four birdies in the front nine to make amends.
"I didn?t start the event the way I would've liked to. Nonetheless, I'm happy with my comeback on the front-nine and the way I finished the round. My ball-striking was good through the day," Shubhankar said.
"There?s a lot to learn from today's round. I?ll look to make amends tomorrow after taking a lot of positives from the front-nine today. I was just a little tired because of the jetlag but it didn't affect my game. I hit almost all fairways on the front-nine today."
Twenty four golfers will return tomorrow to complete the opening round after they were left stranded at the cut off time.