New Delhi: Sri Lankan golfer Mithun Perera raised hopes of his maiden Asian Tour title as he produced a sensational six-under 66 on the opening day to grab the lead at the USD 400,000 Panasonic Open India here.
The 28-year-old Perera, who suffered a heartbreak in the last edition after losing in a three-way play-off, came up with seven birdies and one bogey to open up a one-stroke lead over India's Chirag Kumar and Sattaya Supupramai of Thailand, who missed a five-foot birdie on the last hole here.
India's Abhijit Chadha carded 68 to hold a share of the fourth spot alongwith Bangladesh's Siddikur Rahman, Sri Lanka's N Thangaraja and Thai duo of Thaworn Wiratchant, a two-time Asian Tour number one, and Thitiphun Chuayprakong.
Among other Indians in fray, S Chikka, Shankar Das, Jyoti Randhawa and Khalin Joshi were tied ninth alongwith four other golfers.
'Keep the driver in the bag' is generally the norm at the Delhi Golf Course but Perera defied that advice, using the driver 11 times during the day as he was off the block with two opening birdies and then enjoyed a late flourish with birdies on four of the last five holes.
"I birdied the first two holes, they were like two gimmie birdies. That gave me a lot of confidence. I kept the ball in play and that's the key to a good score here," said Perera, who holed 24 putts.
"Most of the birdie putts were approx 10 feet. The 18th was 15 footer but 15th was longest, it was 20-25 feet.
"I made 11 drive shots and my accuracy helped me to stay away from trouble. I have never won in Asian Tour. I did well at DGC. Hopefully it will be my first victory. I want to keep the momentum in the next three days."
Chirag, who secured his Asian Tour card by finishing second at the Venetian Macau Open three weeks ago, blasted as many as four birdies in the front nine and added two more on the back nine with the only blot being the ninth hole bogey.
"I got off to a good start with three birdies on a row and that gave me momentum. I played really well. I made good putts. It was nice to finish up with a 10-foot birdie. The second hole birdie was the longest, a 35-40 footer," he said.
"Everything was good day. I just want to play the same way tomorrow," he added.
Missing a close range birdie putt on the last hole cost Sattaya a share of the lead as the 31-year-old Thai, who played without a driver in his golf bag, came up with his best score at DGC.
"I have never fared well at this course and missed many cuts here. But I tried to find a way to play better today and took my driver out of the bag this week.
"I used a two-iron for my tee shots and I have no complaints with my score today. Of course missing the birdie at the 18th was disappointing," said Sattaya.
Siddikur, who has won once at the Delhi course and finished runner-up on three occasions in the last five years, rode on his back nine as he fired four birdies 12, 14, 17 and 18 holes after being even-par at the turn.
"It wasn't a bad start! I enjoyed my day. The fairways are soft so it is playing slightly longer but I made some good putts and that helped. It is nice to see Mithun leading. I think all the accurate players will do well here," said Siddikur, a two-time Asian Tour winner.
Scores after round 1:
66 - Mithun PERERA (SRI).
67 - Chiragh KUMAR (IND), Sattaya SUPUPRAMAI (THA).
68 - Thitiphun CHUAYPRAKONG (THA), N. THANGARAJA (SRI), Siddikur RAHMAN (BAN), Thaworn WIRATCHANT (THA), Abhijit CHADHA (IND).
69 - Anura ROHANA (SRI), Niall TURNER (IRL), Chikka S.
(IND), Shankar DAS (IND), Jyoti RANDHAWA (IND), K. PRABAGARAN (SRI), Khalin JOSHI (IND), George GANDRANATA (INA).
70 - Deepinder Singh KULLAR (IND), Mukesh KUMAR (IND), James BYRNE (SCO), Shubhankar SHARMA (IND), Rahil GANGJEE (IND), C. MUNIYAPPA (IND), Sanjay KUMAR (IND), Arnond VONGVANIJ (THA), Pawin INGKHAPRADIT (THA).
71 - Zamal MOLLAH (BAN), Abhishek JHA (IND), Gaganjeet BHULLAR (IND), Namchok TANTIPOKHAKUL (THA), Niall KEARNEY (IRL), Vikrant CHOPRA (IND), Sujjan SINGH (IND), Amardip MALIK (IND), Digvijay SINGH (IND), Rashid KHAN (IND), Om Prakash CHOUHAN (IND), Malcolm KOKOCINSKI (SWE).