Benjamin Hebert (Getty Images) and Gaganjeet Bhullar (File).
Nairobi, Kenya, March 18: Gaganjeet Bhullar carried on from where he let off last week as he opened the Magical Kenya Open with a five-under 66 and was inside Top-10 on a low-scoring opening day.
Bhullar, who holed a shot from the bunker for an eagle on Par-5 11th, had four birdies, an eagle and just one bogey in his 66.
Things, were however not so good for the other two Indians in the field as Shubhankar Sharma (73) was T-114 and SSP Chawrasia (74) was 132nd in a field of 144. Both will need low rounds to have any chance of making the cut, which is likely to fall around 1-under or 2-under.
Bhullar, runner-up at Qatar Masters last week, had a birdie on third, which he gave back on Par-5 sixth, which must have hurt. Around the turn he was in full flow with a birdie on ninth, tenth and then a hole-out from bunker for eagle on 11th and another birdie on 12th to be 5-under in four holes. He closed with six straight pars.
“I drove the ball well and my short game was good today. I am feeling more comfortable and last week did me a lot good. I also holed a shot from the bunker on 11th for eagle, so that was nice.”
Benjamin Hebert birdied the last to take the first round lead. The Frenchman started with a bogey, but birdies on second and then three in a row from fifth to seventh saw him turn in 3-under. On the back nine at Karen Country Club, he birdied 11th and then eagled 12 before picking another birdie on 18th for 7-under. The 34-year-old, looking for a first European Tour win.
Hebert’s compatriot Raphaël Jacquelin was among those tied for second on six under, alongside England’s Sam Horsfield, Poland’s Adrian Meronk, German Bernd Ritthammer, Finland’s Kalle Samooja and Scottish pair Calum Hill and Connor Syme.
Besides Bhullar at 5-under, the others were South African Justin Harding, American Julian Suri and England’s Matthew Southgate and Dale Whitnell were at five under.