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Golf: India’s Lahiri battles through pain to lead Omega European Masters

India’s Anirban Lahiri shot a 63 to lead the joint-sanctioned Omega European masters in Switzerland. Stock photo: Asian Tour.

India’s Anirban Lahiri shot 63 to lead the joint-sanctioned Omega European masters in Switzerland. Stock photo: Asian Tour.

September 6, 2013: India’s Anirban Lahiri, 26, set the stage alight when he opened with an eight-under-par 63 on Thursday to take the first-round lead at the €2.1 million Omega European Masters in Switzerland.

 

The Omega European Masters is the only tournament held in Europe jointly sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.

 

Miguel Angel Jimenez, the 2010 champion, shares second after a 65. Photo: Getty Images.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, the 2010 champion, shares second after a 65. Photo: Getty Images.

Spanish legend Miguel Angel Jimenez, the 2010 winner, England’s Paul Casey, a former World No. 3, and compatriot Tommy Fleetwood, who won the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles two weeks ago, all shot matching 65s at Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club in Crans Montana.

 

Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn, the 2011 champion, signed for a 66 to take fifth place.

 

Thailand’s Pariya Junhasavasdikul was among six players on 67, while Li Haotong of China shot a 68 to share 12th with 16 players including Indian duo Jeev Milkha Singh and Gaganjeet Bhullar and Thai star Thongchai Jaidee, overlooked by Nick Price this week as a Presidents Cup pick.

 

Lahiri, who is still nursing a twisted knee, showed he can still play through the pain barrier with a commanding round that was highlighted by a pair of eagles, five birdies on a bogey.

 

“I had a really a bad fall and twisted my right knee about four weeks ago. I’ve a history with my knee as I tore my ACL when I was 15 so it was tough,” said Lahiri.

 

“I didn’t hit balls for 15 days. Monday was probably my fourth round in a month. I came in with no expectations and just wanted to enjoy my golf and that’s probably what’s happening out there.”

 

The Indian also took a share of the first-round clubhouse lead last year, but missed the cut after enduring a torrid time dealing with the weather conditions on the second day.

 

With a wealth of experience under his belt since his last outing at the majestic Swiss Alps, Lahiri is confident he won’t suffer the same fate this year.

 

“It’s nice to be back with a bang. It was a tough pill to swallow last year, but I’ve learnt a lot from that. The weather was so much colder and it was a big adjustment for me. It was a harsh lesson, but a lesson for life nevertheless,” he said.

 

Jimenez, making his 25th consecutive appearance at the Omega European Masters, is back to his best form since returning to action after suffering a broken leg in a skiing accident last Christmas. The 49-year-old, who won the title in 2010 and has 10 top-10 finishes in Crans, is confident he will continue to be a force to reckon with.

 

“It’s a very nice start. I played very well today,” said the flamboyant Spaniard. “I can play this course with my eyes closed!”

 

Singh also put himself into the mix with a 68 and is relishing the opportunity to notch his second win in Europe.

 

“I’m pretty happy as my game’s coming around after so many injuries. I’m feeling good and I look forward to a good week,” said Singh, Asian Tour Order of Merit winner in 2006 and 2008.

 

Singh, who has six Asian Tour wins, is also delighted to witness the rise of the next generation of golfers to emerge from India.

 

“It’s exciting to see guys like Gaganjeet and Anirban doing well. These guys are young and they’ve got lots of talent and I’m sure they will do really well,” he said.

 

Chinese youngster Ye Wocheng, 13, became the youngest player to compete on the Asian Tour and in a European Tour event in Europe, but struggled in an opening 78.

 

The Omega European Masters marks the start of the second half of the Asian Tour season.

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