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Dharma takes the lead at Eagleburg Masters

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Bengaluru's M. Dharma fired nine birdies for a seven-under 65 to take the opening round lead at the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) Eagleburg Masters here on Tuesday.

One stroke behind Dharma was Kolkata's Shankar Das, who scored an impressive 66, while the Bengaluru duo of S. Chikka and Khalin Joshi and Delhi's Honey Baisoya were bunched together in tied third at 67 at Eagleton - The Golf Resort. 

Dharma, currently lying seventh in the Rolex Ranking, had a productive front-nine where he made four birdies and a bogey. The bogey on the 10th didn't seem to unsettle the 30-year-old as he roared back with five straight birdies from the 11th to the 15th.

Dharma, who finished joint runner-up in the opening event of the season, narrowly missed out on eagle opportunities on two occasions, the fourth and 15th, where his chip shots stopped just short of the hole.

Dharma attributed his solid first round effort to the hard yards he put in over the last three weeks at Eagleton with focus on his short game.

Dharma said, "I was very good around the greens today. I made two brilliant par saves from the bunker. I believe the hard work that I have recently put into my short-game, is paying off now."

Former Rolex Ranking champion Shankar managed to get in just a few days of practice prior to the PGTI Eagleburg Masters as he recovered from a two-week layoff due to fever. However, armed with a new set of irons, the six-time winner on the PGTI, made waves in the opening round at Eagleton, thanks to seven birdies and a bogey.

Shankar said, "It was a fantastic start to the week as I landed it within a foot of the pin on four occasions. My wedge-play was outstanding. I ended the day with one of the most amazing shots I've ever hit.

"I couldn't sight the 18th green from the rough but played a magnificent draw around the trees that stopped a foot from the flag."

Reigning Rolex Ranking champion Chikka fired an error-free 65 at his home course to end the day in tied third. Fellow Bengalurean Khalin and Delhi's Baisoya shared the third spot with Chikka.

Rahil Gangjee and Udayan Mane, two more Bengaluru-based professionals, were in tied sixth at 68 along with Vipin Raghuvanshi of Mhow.

Arjun Sharma of Greater Noida made a hole-in-one on the eighth during his round of 71. He was placed tied 22nd.