Im leads Hero Open

Thailand’s Prom Meesawat fired a six-under-par 66 to trail the first round leader Daniel Im by one-shot at the Hero Indian Open on Thursday. 

Playing in the calm morning conditions, Prom produced seven birdies to chase the 31-year-old Im, who returned with a blemish-free round to lead in the US$1.66 million event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.

Spaniards Jorge Campillo and Nacho Elvira also carded 66s to share second place and stay within striking distance of the leader at the challenging Delhi Golf Club.

Korean rising star Jeunghun Wang, India’s Sanjay Kumar and S.S.P. Chawrasia, Terry Pilkadaris of Australia and Raphael Jacquelin of France, who aced the fifth hole with an eight iron, were a further shot back in tied fifth place.

Reigning Asian Tour number one and defending champion Anirban Lahiri of India birdied his closing four holes for a 68 while three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland returned with a disappointing 71.

Without carrying a driver this week, Prom stayed patient and took advantage of his sharp iron play to stay close to the leader.

“It is another week where I start well again. Everyone knows this golf course is difficult. I hit a lot of good second shots and put myself in a good position. My second shots were very sharp today,” said Prom.

“I didn’t carry my driver this week and last week you can bomb the course. You need to be patient here and hit your mid irons good. You can hit your driver but if you miss the fairway, you can lose two or three shots,” he explained.

When the tournament got underway, India were among the firm favourites to win the whole shebang at 3/1. This loss, however, has seen betting markets – among them – push larger odds like 5/1 and beyond.

Playing for the first time at the Delhi course, Korean-American Im chipped in for birdie in his opening hole and made important up-and-downs to stay bogey-free.

“There were a couple of times where I almost walked away with a bogey. I was just cool. I’ve heard about this golf course so many times prior to this trip. I came in with a bit of respect. I showed some respect and got some respect back,” said Im, a winner on the Challenge Tour.

Lahiri, a seven-time Asian Tour winner, produced a birdie flourish to end the opening round in style after struggling with his irons.

“I was very inconsistent with my iron play to start with. Then I broke it down and tried to focus on the routine and it worked,” he said.

“I told my caddie I haven’t played badly but I was five or six behind and the guys up there had made a fast start. The key was to stay in touch somehow. You don’t want to go too far behind, so I needed to gain some ground and stay in touch,” added Lahiri.

Harrington, making his first appearance in India for the first time since 1992, will need to overcome his slow start after dropping a shot the last hole to sit in tied 40th position.

“I created problems on the greens. I could see at times I was a bit aggressive on a few tee boxes and got away with that. I might need to be a little bit more conservative for the next few rounds.

“Finishing with a bogey isn’t a great thing. I would have been happier if I was three or four-under. That’s where I felt I should have been. We have another 54 holes to go so it is a steady start but nothing too spectacular,” said Harrington.