Tarlac (Philippines): Gaganjeet Bhullar continued his comeback mission right into the final event of the year, with a five-under 67 that placed him tied second at the end of the first round of the weather-shortened Philippine Open golf tournament, in Tarlac on Friday.
Bhullar, who is 48th on the Order of Merit, but has not won since the 2013 Indonesia Open, the last of his five Asian Tour wins, started on the 10th and had six birdies against one bogey.
Two other Indians, Shubhankar Sharma (69) and Khalin Joshi (70), still looking for their first win in their fledgling career were tied 11th and joint 18th. Himmat Rai was tied 38th carding 72, while S Chikkarangappa, two-time winner on Asian Development Tour shot 74.
Bhullar did not have a single shot during the last two days and played without a practice round.
"I didn't play a practice round. I just walked a few holes and that's about it. I didn't do anything on Wednesday and Thursday and was really eager to get out there and hit some good shots which I did," Bhullar said.
"I played well. Around the turn it was slightly difficult when it got breezy. I hit a lot of greens in regulation and putted well. I only had one three putt on the back nine. I feel good because the golf course suits my style," he added.
Ahead of Bhullar was Lindsay Renolds of Canada who produced a flawless six-under-par 66 to snatch the first round lead.
The Phuket-based Canadian, starting the week in 95th place on the Money List, fired six birdies at the US$300,000 Asian Tour event, presented by ICTSI, to revive his hopes of securing an Asian Tour card for the new 2016 season. He needs to win to keep his Asian Tour card.
He is trailed closely by home favourite Miguel Tabuena, Chinnarat Phadungsil of Thailand, Bhullar and Korean rising star Jeunghun Wang, who posted matching 67s at the Luisita Golf and Country Club.
Former Philippine Open champion Mardan Mamat of Singapore, 2011 Order of Merit winner Juvic Pagunsan of the Philippines, Johnrey Pactolerin, Giwhan Kim of Korea and Tirawat Kaewsiribandit of Thailand were a further shot back in tied sixth place.
Officials had earlier postponed the opening round and reduce the Philippine Open to 54 holes due to inclement weather.
The 29-year-old Renolds, said: "It is a case of winning or going back to Qualifying School for me this week. I got nothing to lose. I'm trying to stay motivated and focused."
The 20-year-old Wang opened his account with six birdies against one bogey as he seeks a first Asian Tour win to repay the faith of Jeev Milkha Singh who selected the Korean as a Captain's pick to represent Team Asia at the EurAsia Cup next
Tabuena, who won at the Luisita course on the local circuit with a 22-under score earlier this year, took full advantage of the postponement of round one as he recovered from a cold and high fever to stay in the hunt for a first Asian Tour title.
New father Chinnarat, who welcomed a new born son last month, stayed patient in a pressure-packed week where he must maintain or better his 62nd position on the Order of Merit.