Marianne Skarpnord fired a five-under 67 to open-up a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Hero Women’s Indian Open in Gurgaon on Friday.
The 31-year-old Norwegian sank a downhill birdie putt from eight metres on the tricky 17th hole at DLF Golf and Country Club to edge ahead of England’s Liz Young and Frenchwoman Camille Chevalier. A further six players share fourth place on 69, including India’s Vani Kapoor, who is playing on her home course.
Back in India after a six-year hiatus, Skarpnord enjoyed her first competitive round on the Gary Player-designed Black Knight Course. She carded three birdies and one bogey on the front nine, before adding three further birdies in her last five holes to equal the score recorded by Patcharajutar Kongraphan in the 2015 event.
“I’ve been hearing a lot from the girls and trying to paint a picture,” said the three-time LET winner, who has been thriving on a diet of pizzas at the official hotel this week. “I think a lot of the holes are really good but it’s just some of the greens are a bit crazy and you have to be so careful where you carry the ball, because if it hits the slope it can end up 20 metres from the pin. If you are short sided here, you are in big trouble.”
Another competitor making her course debut was LET rookie professional Chevalier, who managed six birdies. She said: “I played well today. My strategy was in place and I played to the right areas on every hole and putted well. On the back nine, I guess I got tired.”
Young also had a solid day on the greens, taking only 26 putts in a round of 68. She said: “I always use a local caddie when I come to India and once I again I did again this year. He was really good on the greens, telling me the pace and the direction, so we worked well together. The bad shots that I did hit just happened to be at the right time and I managed to scramble some pars out of that. It’s very different to the other courses that we play on the LET; you have to think your way around on every shot. There is no let up and you can make birdies and bogeys very easily.”
The Indian challenge is led by Vani Kapoor, a 23-year-old rookie on the Ladies European Tour (LET), who has won four events on the domestic tour, the Women’s Golf Association of India, this year, including the last one at DLF.
“I’m pretty satisfied because I had a dodgy start and I was two-over after three holes. I was really tense but then I had a birdie on the sixth and I made quite a few birdies after that. I had a birdie on the seventh and the ninth, so I found my momentum there. Then I managed to keep it going and not think about anything else,” said Kapoor, whose coach Anitya Chand is dividing his time between watching his charge and managing the event this week.
Defending champion Aditi Ashok is in a group sharing 10th place on two-under-par with compatriot Gaurika Bishnoi, the leader of the WGAI order of merit. The tournament is co-sanctioned between the LET and WGAI and many of those who have played on the domestic tour will be looking to follow in Aditi’s footsteps by making a mark in India’s biggest women’s golf tournament.