The room was abuzz with activity but the clatter appeared to have little effect on Jyoti Randhawa. After wandering across the media centre, those intense eyes settled on the billboard featuring the SAIL Open logo and got fixed on it. Minutes lapsed but the gaze stayed unbroken. It took a question to shake him up.
Asked what it meant to return for an Asian Tour event at the Delhi Golf Club (DGC), Randhawa, a multiple winner at the venue, replied, “DGC has been a favourite hunting ground, so coming back is special.”
The words started to flow, making it apparent that nostalgia had taken a firm grip on the man. As if trying to connect the past to the present, Randhawa threw another glance at the emblem before continuing, “My first victory came here (Hero Honda Masters, 1998) and it remains the sweetest and I’ve not looked back.”
That epochal event changed his life but the challenge posed by the Lodhi Course has withstood the test of time. It is this factor that Randhawa and the rest of the Indian brigade are banking on to ensure that DGC’s legacy of being kind to homegrown talent stays intact.
“It (DGC) is unique in the world and playing here has armed me with an insight. That’s not the case if Chapchai Nirat suddenly lands here. Looking at the bushes, the first reaction is to hold back,” Randhawa said and had Gaganjeet Bhullar, seated next to him, nodding in agreement.
One of the longest hitters on the Tour, Chapchai is not one to hold back and swears by the lesson taught by his father --- to stay fearless. But things could be different in this $300,000 event. The defending champion is coping with an iffy back and “is playing at 70 per cent of his potential”. After the practice round on Monday, the affable Thai, who won last year at the Classic Golf Resort with an astounding 32-under 256, was aware of the test that lay ahead and even acknowledged the headstart the Indians enjoyed.
Though 21, a mention of the past had Bhullar craning his neck. But the youngster, whose fame has crossed Indian shores, took little time to recollect. Recounting from his days as a junior, Bhullar, like Randhawa, harped on the advantage.
“I know which hole is important and where to lay up, so that will be a plus,” he said.