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Aiken makes charge atop leaderboard

Call it what you may — reluctance to speak in the midst of a tournament or sheer indifference, a leader can often close all routes of communication.

other Updated: Mar 16, 2013 23:15 IST
Robin Bose

Call it what you may — reluctance to speak in the midst of a tournament or sheer indifference, a leader can often close all routes of communication.

The one-liner, "Concentrate on playing one shot at a time and not get ahead of myself," not only sums up his thoughts on the round, it can shut out probing questions from an alien band of reporters.

Thomas Aiken is more than adept at putting his day into perspective, but when the South African, on his maiden visit to India, started off with the cliché, the chances of striking a conversation seemed dim.

A birdie-eagle start isn't uncommon, and the 29-year-old has played long enough as a professional to handle the initial thrust, but the insistence that he told himself "at least two-and-half-thousand times to stay in the present", it did not seem a facade.

"It is funny what happens when you're not thinking about the score," he kept at it. Though playing well of late, it's been the inability to convert opportunities that's hurt.

So, when the penultimate day of the Avantha Masters catapulted him from tied 14th to the top long before play ended at the Jaypee Greens, it was imperative for Aiken to ensure that the "little stick (his putter) continued to behave".

Through the day, Aiken, a winner on the European Tour in 2011, did what he felt was required, "position myself well on the fairways to allow the right angles to approach the greens".

Things going to plan, the mind also didn't focus on the left thumb.

Troubled with tendonitis for five months now, Aiken, or rather his physiotherapist wife, Kate, ensures that he never plays without the black protective covering.

The 10-under 62 handed him a three-shot lead but also left him having to make a choice. Just like the time when he had to choose between tennis, cricket or golf.

Then 15, Aiken had a firm reason to opt for his current passion.

"Wherever in the world, a tennis court or cricket oval look the same. Golf throws up different challenges and topographies."

Back home, Aiken's 61 during the third round of the 2008 Alfred Dunhill Championship set the course record at the Leopard Creek, and he terms it his best round till date.

"But that was played with a lot emotion," he recollected.

"In terms of golf management and mental toughness."

Saturday is now up there.