Spaniard Manuel Elvira made it a memorable first trip to India with a nine-under 63 in the opening round of the Duncan Taylor Black Bull Challenge 2023 that gave him the lead at the US$300,000 event co-sanctioned by the Challenge Tour and PGTI.
Elvira’s 63 featuring 10 birdies and a bogey happens to be the lowest round in a professional event at the KGA. The 26-year-old Manuel from Santander in Spain was one shot ahead of Welshman Oliver Farr who was placed second after an error-free 64.
The Indian duo of M Dharma and Aman Raj were among the nine players bunched in tied third at 67.
Manuel Elvira continued his impressive start to the season, which has seen him climb into the top 20 on the Road to Mallorca Rankings. Elvira’s 63 was one short of the course record of 10-under 62 set by Khalin Joshi in an amateur event in 2012.
“Everything was on point with my game today. I put myself in position off the tee, hit some really good approach shots and then managed to hole my putts and make some birdies,” said Elvira.
M Dharma, playing at his home course, knocked in seven birdies and two bogeys during his 67.
Dharma, a two-time winner on the PGTI, said, “I had 16 greens in regulation today which set up the day for me. I definitely feel I have the home course advantage as I know what to do when I miss the fairway or the green. The two three-putts today was the only dampener. I’ve been starting well at events but not finishing well. That’s something I’ll look to fix.”
Aman Raj, fresh from a win on the PGTI earlier this month and currently second on the PGTI’s money list, endured a tough start after a bogey on the first hole as he came back strongly with six birdies thereafter.
Aman said, “I had a testing time on my opening hole, the 10th. But managed a good 30-foot bogey conversion there despite finding the hazard. That gave me a lot of confidence. After the birdie on the 13th, I felt I was swinging it better and from the 14th onwards I felt in control finding all fairways and greens.
“I know my game is in good shape after my recent win so I just need to be patient. Once the putts start rolling in here, it’s a course where one can go deep.”
Mari Muthu, Aryan Roopa Anand, Sunhit Bishnoi, Angad Cheema, Aadil Bedi and Sudhir Sharma were the six Indians in tied 12th place with scores of 68.
Among the prominent Indian names, Udayan Mane (70) was tied 43rd while Khalin Joshi (71) was tied 66th.
India’s Mohammad Sanju produced a hole-in-one on the fourth during his round of 72 that placed him tied 86th.