Lahiri leads at Panasonic Open

Indian star Anirban Lahiri overcame swirling winds for an opening round three-under-par 69 to ignite his title defence at the Panasonic Open India on Thursday.

Anirban Lahiri aims for title defense

Lahiri fired five birdies against two bogeys in a round which he described as possibly the toughest conditions he has ever played at the Delhi Golf Club.

Prom Meesawat of Thailand was among eight players tied in second place on 70 with Asian Tour rookie James Byrne of Scotland, Australians Adam Groom and Scott Barr and Indians Shankar Das, Ashok Kumar, Sanjay Kumar and Digvijay Singh at the US$300,000 event.

Lahiri was delighted to overcome the unfamiliar playing conditions at the Delhi Golf Club as gushing winds made it a tough scoring day. Only 15 players broke par in the 156-man field.

"Yes, this is my first time playing in these swirling winds at the Delhi Golf Club. I was talking to Shiv's (Kapur) long time caddy who was on the bag for Peter (Karmis) and he said he hasn't experienced this condition in 34 years!" said Lahiri, a two-time Asian Tour winner.

"Today was a brand new experience for me and I'm happy with the way I played especially with the wind blowing at 30 or 40 kilometres per hour. It was all about execution and not much about strategy," added the 24-year-old, who will make his British Open debut in July.

Prom, third on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, was disappointed to miss his two feet par putt on the last hole which would have given him the share of the lead.

"The wind made it very tricky. You need to try and keep the ball in play. The conditions of the course are very good. I know the course very well but I'm not going to take that for granted. Anyone can shoot a low score here. You need to stay patient out here," said Prom, who lost in a play-off to Lahiri at the SAIL-SBI Open at the same venue last month.

Barr made a brave comeback after opening with two straight bogeys and credited his strong mental resilience for his solid round.

"My temperament was pretty good after a bad start (two bogeys). My highlight was probably keeping my mental game in check. Hopefully I can tidy it up and be around the leaderboard," said Barr, who finished third at the Delhi Golf Club last month.

Asian Tour rookie Byrne of Scotland, a former Walker Cup team winner, was the first to tee off in the morning and avoided the blustery conditions for most of the round.

"The wind is making a big difference here. Obviously the scores are showing. It was a good result. I was on a good side of the draw and managed to play my first nine without any wind. That was a big help and I'm glad I managed to stay out of the wind for most of the holes," said Byrne, who mixed his card with five birdies against three bogeys.

Groom got off to a fast start with two straight birdies and hopes to keep the momentum going in his search for a first Asian Tour win.

"This week is probably the trickiest I've seen the Delhi Golf Club because it is blowing. You need to be careful with your tee shots. I missed a couple of putts out there or I would have been three or four-under. I'm pretty happy with how I played," said Groom.

The worldwide appeal of the Asian Tour stars and the rich heritage associated with India will be showcased throughout four days of the Panasonic Open India to over 200 countries and 650 million homes across the Live, Highlights, Magazine programmes and via the additional exposure generated by Golfing World.

The Panasonic Open India is also supporting the Golf Foundation to raise funds for the underprivileged through birdie counts. The Golf Foundation is a registered Charitable Society of golfers who want to give back to the game by helping a pool of untapped talent.

The Foundation has created very successful golfers like Ashok Kumar, Rashid Khan and Chikkarangappa to name a few. Shubham Jaglan is presently on the Foundation. He is a seven-year-old prodigy who has won almost all events in his category.

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