Dubai-based Rayhan Thomas was the best-placed Indian golfer at tied 7th after carding an eventful two-under 70 in the opening round of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, which guarantees the winner a start at the Masters next year.
Among those tied with Thomas was Australian Curtis Luck, the US Amateur winner and runner-up at World Amateurs in Mexico.
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Thomas was five behind leader Australian Cameron Davis, who was last year thwarted from winning the title by rain on final day.
Davis had eight birdies in a superb seven-under 65 for a two-shot lead over Yuwa Kosaihara, who has made cuts in his last two starts in pro events on Japan Tour, and fellow Aussie Brett Coletta (67).
Thomas was the only Indian in red numbers, while Chandigarh golfer Yuvraj Sandhu gave a good account of himself with an even par 72 for Tied-16th and among those tied with him was defending champion Cheng Jin of China.
Kshitij Naveed Kaul, the youngest in the Indian squad at 16, after finding his first birdie only on the 14th hole, rounded off the day with a second birdie for a 74 that placed him tied 29th.
The other Indians struggled as Mangalore-born Rigel Fernandes, now at University of South Florida, dropped three shots in last three holes for a 76, while Viraj Madappa, whose golf bag arrived two days after he did from Texas, was undone by a quadruple and shot a similar 76 in tied 50th.
Priyanshu Singh, the All India Amateur champion, had a nightmarish finish with six bogeys in last seven holes for a 79.
The 17-year-old Thomas produced a great fight back after being three-over through three holes.
“I had seven birdies and I came back with a two-under, so there are mixed feelings. But after the way I started with three bogeys in a row from 10th to 12th, I am very happy with the finish, which had three birdies in last three,” said Thomas.
Three bogeys in first three holes threatened to derail Thomas’ bid, but a par on par-three 13th stemmed the rot. Then he wiped out the bogeys with a streak of three birdies from 14th to 16th.
“That gave me a lot of confidence, as I turned in even par. The second nine was better. A birdie on second before I lapsed into two bogeys. But I was happy with the way I finished with three more birdies in last three holes,” said Thomas, whose firm downhill putt from 12 feet on 18th saw him card 70.