Chonburi (Thailand): Fresh from his SAIL-SBI Open triumph last week, in-form Indian golfer Anirban Lahiri took the joint first-round lead in the Open Championship International Final Qualifying (Asia) here today.
Lahiri, winner of the SAIL-SBI Open on the Asian Tour in India, fired a four-under 68 and shared the lead with Jonathan Moore of the United States at the Amata Spring Country Club.
Himmat Rai (73) was the next best Indian in tied 27th, while Gaganjeet Bhullar (77) was way behind in tied 52nd. Chiragh Kumar was further down with 79 in 63rd place.
The Open Championship will be played at the Royal Lytham and St Annes from July 19 to 22, 2012.
Lahiri, who had eight birdies against two bogeys and one double bogey, may well have been the sole leader as he was six-under through the 15th hole.
He dropped a bogey on the 16th and then had a costly double bogey on the signature 17th hole where players must take a boat ride to the green after their tee shot. But he kept his cool and recovered somewhat with a birdie on the last hole.
"I`m really happy with the way I played. I drove the ball really well. I`m happy with the way I`m swinging it. All and all it was a good round. I would have loved to finish better," said Lahiri, who opened the day with two birdies on first and second holes.
Lahiri again birdied the sixth and seventh to go four-under. His first error came on the eighth, which he bogeyed, but with a par on ninth he turned in three-under.
Birdies on 10th and 11th meant he was five-under and his seventh birdie of the day on 15th brought him to six-under. Bogey on the 16th and a double bogey on the par-three 17th set him back, but he rebounded with a birdie on 18th.
Lahiri was delighted to be in the running of earning a Major debut despite hitting his wedge shot into the water on 17.
"I love watching all The Opens. I remember watching Tiger (Woods) go out with his two-iron and smashing it around St. Andrews. He would kill the field and that was fantastic. Hopefully if I can play well tomorrow, I can be a part of that," said the 24-year-old.
Moore, winner of the Asian Development Tour Order of Merit last year, enjoyed a hot putting day highlighted by an eagle three on the 15th hole.
Kwanchai Tannin of Thailand, Kodai Ichihara of Japan, Australian Scott Barr and Japanese amateur Hideki Matsuyama were a further shot back in the IFQ, where the top-four players at the end of the two-day qualifier will earn tickets to The Open Championship in July.