Relying on solid iron play, Karandeep Kochhar grabs Round 1 lead in Jeev Milkha Singh Invitationalhttps://indianexpress.com/article/sports/golf/chandigarh-relying-on-solid-iron-play-local-lad-kochhar-grabs-lead-after-rd-1-6075350/

Relying on solid iron play, Karandeep Kochhar grabs Round 1 lead in Jeev Milkha Singh Invitational

Karandeep Kochhar’s first-round score of seven-under-65 saw him claiming the lead on the opening day of the Jeev Milkha Singh Invitational.

Karandeep Kochhar (left) and Aadil Bedi during Jeev Milkha Singh Invitational 2019 at Chandigarh golf club on Thursday. Jaipal Singh

On Thursday evening, as Chandigarh golfer Karandeep Kochhar ended his first round with a par on the ninth hole in the Jeev Milkha Singh Invitational presented by Take Solutions at Chandigarh Golf Club, the youngster drew praise from 14-time International winner Jeev Milkha Singh. Kochhar’s first-round score of seven-under-65 saw him claiming the lead on the opening day of the championships and Singh, who was also competing in Kochhar’s group, told Kochhar immediately after his round, “Awesome round. Keep it up.”

Incidentally, Kochhar had shot a round of six-under-66 on an opening day in the first edition of the tournament last year before he finished runner-up in the tournament.

“To hear the praise from Jeev sir is always a motivation for me and to play well in front of him is really special for me. I had shot a round of nine-under during the practice round with him last week but to shoot such a score on an opening day is also uplifting. My iron play was good from the start. Initially, I was struggling with my driver and 3-wood but somehow I was able to land the ball in the fairways. Once I did that, I knew that I could convert that to birdie and it helped my score today,” shared Kochhar.

On a day when only 36 players out of 132 players shot around below par, Kochhar hit 15 greens in regulation of the 18 and missed seven of the 14 fairways on the 7,202-yard long course. The 20-year-old golfer made 26 putts and his round saw him sinking a total of eight birdies, three of which came in a row on the front-nine (10-18th hole). On the back-nine, Kochhar sank three birdies, with two birdies in a row on the seventh and eighth hole respectively. The only blemish in Kochhar’s round was a bogey on the 17th hole.

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“I guess the second shot on the 15th hole helped me gain the momentum for the day. I hit the shot with 6-iron and it was 185 yards downhill. To land the ball within 6-7 feet of the hole gave me confidence and the birdie on that hole made me believe that I could be aggressive today. The par save on the first hole too was an important one for me. The ball striking was good for me and the swing worked for me too. In Jaipur, where I played before, my putting was not good. I worked on my putting with my coach Jesse Grewal and it helped me. The ball was rolling at a good pace on the greens today but some of my putts went short. There was nothing wrong with the shot but there was a minor issue with the speed,” added Kochhar.

Kochhar will have an early morning start on the second day and believes that hitting the fairway off the tee will be the key. “The key for the second round will be hitting the fairway off the tee and be confident of the iron play. The aim is to put the ball within a 15-feet radius of the hole and giving yourself as many chances to score birdies,” said Kochhar.

While another Chandigarh golfer Ajeetesh Sandhu was sharing the tied second spot with Himmat Singh Rai and OP Chauhan with a round of six-under-66 each to lie one shot behind Kochhar. Yuvraj Sandhu and Harendra Gupta were placed tied 17th with rounds of two-under-70 each.

Jeev Milkha Singh returned with a par score on an opening day and was placed tied 37th. “I am happy with my round today. Except for some mistakes, I hit the shots which I wanted to. I had some birdie chances and made some good putts but unfortunately, I could not convert to birdies. The way Karandeep and Ajeetesh played was a good example of shot management. Karandeep had a good distance control today and recovered well from the roughs too,” shared Jeev.

Sri Lankan golfer Thangaraja and Panchkula golfer Martendeya Singa made hole-in-one on the opening day.