Golf: India's Khalin Joshi claims first-round lead at US$1m Singapore International

Khalin Joshi ended the first day of the US$1 million (S$1.35 million) Singapore International top of the leaderboard at five-under 67. PHOTO: PAUL LAKATOS/ASIAN TOUR

SINGAPORE - Indian golfer Khalin Joshi has "happy memories" of a childhood spent in Singapore, where his grandmother, sister and uncle now live.

And this week, the 29-year-old is hoping his second home can bring him more joy after he ended the first day of the US$1 million (S$1.35 million) Singapore International top of the leaderboard at five-under 67.

Joshi had appeared on course for a good finish early in the session after firing five birdies in his first 10 holes at the Tanah Merah Country Club (TMCC) on Thursday (Jan 13).

But the 2018 Panasonic Open India winner's strong start came to a halt as he bogeyed twice over the next three holes. But that proved to be a minor hiccup as he steadied himself to score two more birdies and card 67 for a two-stroke lead after the first round.

Englishman William Harrold was second after carding a three-under 69, while Joshi's compatriot Ajeetesh Sandhu and American Paul Peterson (70) were tied for third.

Noting the difficulty of TMCC's Tampines course, Joshi said: "It was obviously a very challenging golf course to start off with; it's long, it's windy and the flags were all tough, so it wasn't very easy, greens are firm.

"So I'm just very pleased with the way I'm playing and with the way my round went today."

Taking the lead in Singapore, a place he has visited often since he was a child, makes it special.

He added: "It's been a while since I've been leading on the Asian Tour. It's obviously feeling very good. But it's a four-day tournament, so there's a long way to go still. Obviously it's a challenging golf course, everybody is going to make mistakes.

"The key is to stay patient and whenever you have the chance to capitalise, (make sure you do) and just enjoy the set because it's going to be a long week."

Harrold, who played on the EuroPro Tour last year, fired an eagle and four birdies to three bogeys in his return to the Asian Tour after a four-year hiatus.

The 34-year-old said: "I hadn't played much golf. I haven't played on the Asian Tour for ages, and this is a big event, so it just got into my head a little.

"I have been playing quite good last year, I was playing in England. And I have tended to play reasonably well when I have played on the Asian Tour. I was really happy just to get in."

Thailand's Jazz Janewattananond, last year's Asian Tour Order of Merit winner, finished joint-fifth after carding one-under 71, while Australia's Wade Ormsby - who leads the current Order of Merit - scored 72 for joint-ninth.

Jazz, who returned to competition after a five-week break, said: "I was a bit rusty on the front nine and holed a couple of good putts but missed some really easy ones as well. All in all, it was a pretty good round on a tough Tampines course."

Choo Tze Huang was Singapore's top performer, coming in joint-20th after finishing the round with a 73.

He is among the Republic's 23 golfers - eight amateurs and 15 pros - who are competing at the event.

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