Yannik Paul produced a red-hot finish to storm into a one-stroke lead after the first day of the Hero Indian Open at DLF Golf and Country Club.
The German finished with four straight birdies to post a seven under par round of 65 and usurp India’s Honey Baisoya, who had earlier set the target at six under with a sweet 66 in New Delhi.
Paul, who won his first DP World Tour title at last year’s Mallorca Golf Open, opened with a bogey on the par four first hole but he bounced straight back at the second before another birdie at the ninth sparked him into life.
Further gains arrived at the tenth and 13th before that closing quartet of birdies placed him as the man to catch with darkness bringing an end to the opening day.
The 28-year-old arrived in India after securing a second placed finish at last week’s Thailand Classic and his opening effort showed serious signs of a continuation of that form as he enters his sixth week on the road.
Finland’s Mikko Korhonen currently sits third on five under par while Iceland’s Gudmundur Kristjansson shares fourth place with Indian duo Angad Cheema and Shubhankar Sharma, a two-time DP World Tour winner, with Germany’s Marcel Siem a shot further back in seventh.
Baisoya, Cheema and Sharma are three of six Indian players inside the top ten as the local fan favourites made a strong start to their national open.
The first round will resume at 7:50am local time at DLF Golf and Country Club, with no change to round two tee times.
Yannik Paul: “I obviously played well today. I knew it was a challenging course but I just tried to focus on one shot at a time. I had a great finish, four birdies in the last four, that helps, but tomorrow is a new day so I’ll focus on what I can control and see where I end up.
“I only walked the back nine, I didn’t even play it before. If you’re in the fairway, you get a lot of chances. Front nine, you have more drivers off the tee so I think off the tee it’s a bit more challenging on the front nine. It’s more intimidating off the tee on the back nine, just the looks, but you actually have a little more room in some spots.
“It’s my sixth week in a row so I took it pretty easy Monday through Wednesday because after a long stretch you can just feel it here, feel it there. I just played a nine hole pro-am yesterday afternoon then walked the back nine on Tuesday, just to conserve as much energy as I could because I knew it would be challenging here, mentally as well as with the golf shots.
“It’s a tricky course, I think you just have to be 100 per cent committed to every shot and 100 per cent focused. I don’t really have a number that I want to get to because that’s tough to control. I’m just trying to stay focused on my process and see where I end up come Sunday.”
Honey Baisoya: “I played really well today. I had about 260 yards on the last and I wanted to finish with a birdie, but it’s okay, I played a good hole.
“I was thinking about the course record after about six holes because I was three under and then made birdie at the eighth and ninth so yes, it was in my mind that I needed to break the record. I had a bad shot on the 14th.
“The Indian Open means a lot for the Indians and we played a lot of tournaments here. They’re used to this course and it means a lot to them.”
Mikko Korhonen: “It was a great day of golf. To shoot anything under par round here is always good so I’m really happy.
“You shouldn’t get frustrated if you make a bogey or two, everybody makes them. My ball striking was brilliant. My putting is still a little bit shaky, but getting better.
“I’d say this is one of the toughest tests we play. The condition is brilliant and it’s a great golf course.”
Shubhankar Sharma: “I’m really happy. A lot of people came out to watch today as well. I’ve already said before, the Indian Open is very special to all of us, we really look forward to it and it’s great that it’s back, especially on a beautiful course like this. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it better than what it is right now.
“I guess we just have a lot of depth now, we have a lot of good players now. It’s not an easy course, you have to hit it pretty well round here. It’s not like all the players on the leaderboard play here, it just shows the growth of Indian golf. It’s a testament to how good Indian golf is.”