Macau: Despite starting off on a poor note, India's Gaganjeet Bhullar eventually teared up the course with a scintillating eight-under 63, which gave him a two-shot lead over Prom Meesawat and Scott Hend, at the end of the first round of the USD 750,000 Venetian Macau Open on Thursday.

Bhullar started with a bogey on the first hole, but on the very next landed an eagle and then proceeded to dominate the course.

The other Indians, too, had a good day with Anirban Lahiri returning three-under 68 to be tied 15th, while Himmat Rai (69) was tied 25th.

Shiv Kapur and Ajeetesh Sandhu, 70 each, were tied 34th, but SSP Chowrasia struggled with a two-over 73 to be in tied 82nd place.

Playing alongside defending champion Chan Yih-Shih (73), Bhullar's eagle on the second was followed by birdies on third and fourth and he added another one on ninth to turn in a healthy four-under 31.

On the back nine, he made no mistakes, had birdies on 12th and 13th and then added two more on 15th and 18th for a superb 63.

Lahiri had three birdies in a row from second to fourth, but bogeys on fourth and sixth set him back. On the back nine, he birdied the 13th and 15th and missed a couple of others to finish at 68.

Bhullar, who has one win, one second and one ninth-place finish in his last five starts, sank a 35-footer on the second hole and had seven other birdies.

"When you know mentally that you're striking the ball good, it'll be a matter of putting and if you putt well, you will score. Today was one of those 'Super Sunday' putting," said a delighted Bhullar.

"I canned that putt (on two). It changed the whole game plan. I made a lot of close birdies but holed a lot of long putts. (I also) holed two from 40 feet."

Bhullar holds Macau close to his heart as he finished second here three years ago.

"This course is one of my favourite courses in Asia. It will be lovely to have a victory under my belt on this course," he said.

"In the off season, I've worked really hard. I knew that the game is there. It was just a matter of patience. Putting was one thing. I am streaky with the putting, very inconsistent. But I think that has been sorted out. I changed my posture a bit and it's been helping me."

Lahiri said, "I had my round going quite good. I was hitting it really good and putted decently. Overall it was pretty solid. I just missed three or four greens and hit a couple of bad chips. But I'm quite happy with the way I played. I'll take a 68 to start on this course. The conditions were good for scoring, it wasn't that windy.

"It's a tricky golf course. If you feel good and confident about your game, you also have to control your ball flight well. One thing is to judge the wind and another thing is to execute the shot." he said.

Himmat also birdied second to fourth and the eighth but bogeys on seventh and ninth reduced that advantage to just two-under on the turn. On the back nine he bogeyed 10th and birdied the 18th for his 69.

Sandhu had two birdies and one bogey, while Kapur had four birdies and three bogeys. Chowrasia had four birdies and six bogeys in his 73.

Three-time Asian Tour number one Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand produced a bogey-free 66 for a share of fourth place with Ireland's Niall Turner, Australian Kieran Pratt and Bangladeshi Siddikur, who sank a hole-in-one on the sixth hole.

Welshman Ian Woosnam, a former Masters Tournament champion, launched his campaign with a solid 68, one better than playing partner and two-time Macau Open winner Zhang Lian-wei of China.

Prom made five birdies on his outward nine before settling for a 65, while the big-hitting Hend stayed patient at the demanding Macau layout. He used his driver only on four occasions as he picked up eight birdies, including on all the par fives.


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