Bjorn Three Back Els Struggles in India


European TourNEW DELHI -- With a strong presence in professional golf for more than a decade, India finally hosted its first European Tour event beginning Thursday.
And its native sons did not disappoint.
Jyoti Randhawa fired a 7-under 65 for a 2-shot lead at the Indian Masters and was one of seven Indians in the top 20 after the opening round at Delhi Golf Club.
Shiv Kapur (68), C. Muniyappa (69), Arjun Atwal (70), S.S.P. Chowrasia (70), Harmeet Kahlon (70) and Digvijay Singh (70) were all within five shots of their countryman.
England's Richard Finch and Ireland's Damien McGrane were tied for second place, two shots behind Randhawa at 5-under 67. Thomas Bjorn of Denmark and Spain's Jose Manuel Lara joined Kapur at four-under 68.
Muniyappa led a 10-way tie at 3-under 69, a group that also included two- time major winner Mark O'Meara. Muniyappa made a hole-in-one at the 188-yard 12th.
Randhawa eagled both back-nine par fives, the 14th and the 18th, for his two- shot lead. Before that, he collected three birdies in a 10-hole stretch from the third.
It was a flawless round, Randhawa's best on the European Tour since he shot a 65 in the first round of the European Open last July. Before Thursday, he hadn't held an 18-hole lead since November 2006.
'You can't really ask for a better first round than that. I am very happy with it,' Randhawa said. 'Also, what a great way to finish. I had a about 15 feet left after two 3-woods to the (18th) green and when I hit [the putt] I knew it was in. It was the perfect speed and a perfect putt.'
The host course -- built on the site where tombs from the 17th-century Lodhi Dynasty were located -- has yielded five previous victories to Randhawa, including four on the Asian Tour, which is a co-sponsor this week.
'Delhi Golf Club, what can I say -- it keeps me under pressure but I love it and I do seem to play well here,' Randhawa said.
World No. 4 Ernie Els, the highest-ranked player in the field, opened with a 3-over 75 and was tied for 77th place.
He was in a little better shape than Jeev Milkha Singh, who posted a 77 and was tied for 103rd. In 1997, Singh became the first Indian to earn a European Tour card. Ten years and two European Tour wins later, he was awarded the equivalent of a knighthood by his native country.
Atwal was the first Indian player to win on European Tour when he claimed the 2002 Singapore Masters. Singh's two victories in 2006 made him the second.
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