Gurugram: With the climate — pollution levels, more specifically — expected to take centrestage at the DLF Golf and Country Club, the sun played spoilsport for doomsayers, and local lass Vani Kapoor positioned herself to make a push for the big time on the opening day of the Hero Women’s Indian Open, two strokes behind the leader, Marianne Skarpnord of Norway, and one ahead of defending champion Aditi Ashok.
Making her seventh appearance at the Women’s Indian Open, Vani attacked her home course to rack up six birdies, but was slowed up by three bogeys, two of them early in her round. While the testing Gary Player layout was expected to stretch the field, there were as many as 30 golfers bringing in sub-par rounds though it did punish those unable to get to grips with its demands.
Vani did well to bounce back from being two-over after five holes to finish with 69 along with five others, two shots behind Skarpnord, who also had six birdies against only one bogey, the result of a three-putt on fifth, in her first competitive round at this event. Aditi too is lurking dangerously, three shots off the pace, along with Order of Merit leader on the Indian women’s circuit Gaurika Bishnoi.
In shared second were Camille Chevalier of France and England’s Liz Young, on four-under 68, Chevalier hitting five birdies against one bogey, while Young had six birdies against two dropped shots. Alongside Vani were Meghan MacLaren, Klara Spilkova, Olivia Cowan, Karolin Lampert and Kanphanitnan Muang-khumsakul.
Skarpnord’s 67 equalled the course record for the Gary Player layout after Thailand’s Kongkraphan Patcharajutar in 2015, the year when the HWIO was first played over this new course. The tight leaderboard had as many 18 players shooting 70 or under and were within three shots of the lead.
Vani has had seven starts this season on the Ladies European Tour, who co-sanction the event, and made cuts in five, but has been unable to string together good rounds with consistency. “I played at this course two weeks ago and won on the domestic Tour, but then went to Abu Dhabi after that. I came back and played nine holes and the Pro-Am.
“I know this course well, so that was fine. I’m pretty satisfied because I had a dodgy start and I was two-over after five holes. I was really tense but then I had a birdie on the sixth and then on seventh the ninth. I found my momentum there,” she said.
Added title favourite Aditi, “I putted okay today but I didn’t hit as many approach shots close to the flag as I should have. “Hole 15 was good. I hit a 3-wood off the tee, then a hybrid and had a wedge to about 12 feet and holed the putt. I hit the last five greens in a row and they were my birdie chances but up until then I was grinding for par.”
Among the other Indians, Saaniya Sharma (73) was T-41st and Gursimar Badwal (74) was T-54th. Amandeep Drall (77), Smriti Mehra (78) and Sharmila Nicollet (79) had disappointing outings while Pranavi Urs carded 77 to be the best of the four amateurs who made the start. Anika Varma and Sifat Sagoo shot 78 each. Diksha Dagar shot 80.