In between fulfilling the responsibilities of a marshal, the elderly gentleman stood on the sidelines practicing his swing. Clearly, it was an attempt to absorb Liang Wen-chong's method. After the leader group had teed off, his companions, who were till then throwing disapproving looks, made their disapproval clear. "If you're planning to copy Liang's swing tomorrow, you'll be in trouble. Liang's in a different league, he's the Indian Open champion."
At 11 in the morning on Sunday, the words seemed premature as the Chinese had teed off with a slim lead over Adam Blyth, but the setting at the Delhi Golf Club seemed to echo William Wordsworth's words, "Faith is a passionate intuition." The conviction was again on view when Liang was at work on the 10th with a comfortable buffer at his disposal. As an acceptance of the inevitable, an Asian Tour official was seen making his way to the tournament office with the giant plastic cheque of $158,500.00, payable to "Hero Honda Indian Open winner Liang Wen-chong".
The prevailing belief was briefly shaken when a combination of Liang's follies and challenger Darren Beck's brilliance threatened to change the equation. But keeping faith that his skills were headed in only one direction --- upwards, Liang finished the way he had started the day, with a one-stroke lead.
Down with a stiff neck while doing yoga last night, Jeev Milkha Singh nearly didn't tee off, but the doughty player held his ground to record the best finish in the National Open. The sole fourth spot and the cheque of $49,300.00 were several notches up from last year's 13th position. "Deep down I know I tried. I had planned for a six-under for the day but fell short by three," said Jeev, adding the injury made him uncertain for the upcoming Portugal Masters. "I'm picking up injuries too frequently, I need to slow down." Three strokes behind Jeev at tied sixth were the two Kumars, Ashok and Mukesh at nine-under.
If Blyth was Liang's challenger early on, replacing him in the afternoon was fellow Aussie, Beck, who worked his way up from the overnight ninth spot with a spate of birdie putts. The change in order did little to affect Liang initially, who had fired three birdies on the front nine to stretch his lead and then resorted to steady play after making the turn.
Trouble started on the 14th when "nervousness" made Liang drop a shot while "wrong club selection" led to double trouble on the next. In contrast, Beck, after saving shots on the 14th and 15th, finished with a birdie to not only go a stroke ahead, he also put the onus firmly on Liang to reply suitably.
"Despite the nervousness, I decided to attack," said Liang after the ploy had paid off. A birdie on the 17th meant a tie with Beck at 15-under. A similar effort was required on the final hole to avoid a play-off. As the fourth shot on the par-5 18th rolled in, Liang grit his teeth and threw up the arms.
Watching the action from the adjoining putting green was Beck. As the birdie putt was completed, a wry smile appeared on the Aussie's lips and he resumed practice.