Unlike several of his ilk, Ashok Kumar does not let peripheral things unsettle him. What does matter is the compatibility with his clubs. Of late, club control has been an issue and even though he managed a 70 on the opening day of the DLF Masters, the affable Ashok was moving around with an unsettled look.
Deciding to end the uncertainty, he stopped over at the club fitters on Friday morning to have his irons set. The move was decisive as Ashok and his refurbished clubs combined well to return a card of 65, which gave him a share of the lead with Gaganjeet Bhullar.
But for the freak incident on the 17th hole, the day could have been Ashok's. A short putt away from making par, he was all set to hole the ball when Anirban Lahiri, playing in the group behind Ashok's, landed his tee shot within handshaking distance of the latter. Shaken, Ashok hurried through and erred.
Missing out on the sole lead did not perturb him. Instead, the relief on regaining club control played large on the rotund face. “Practicing at the range with the refitted clubs gave a good feeling and I knew the day would go off well,” said Ashok after submitting his season's best card.
He might have switched allegiance to his breeding ground — Delhi Golf Club, but the years of familiarity at the DLF Golf & Country Club made Ashok's style of play appear almost contemptuous. On a day when several complained about difficult conditions, Ashok, T9 overnight, made light of the bogey on 2nd to embark on a birdie-making spree that ended with a flourish on the 18th.
Also fuelling the manic run was the desire to make up for lost time. Ashok had picked up a wrist injury during the Players Championship at the Aamby Valley in May, which led him to miss out on almost four months.
Like Ashok, Bhullar too hit the ball close but the putting was inconsistent, and despite the eagle on the 9th, he fell short of his day's target of six-under by a stroke. "Yesterday too, I had given myself a score of five-under but fell short. So, I am two-over overall," said Bhullar.
Jyoti Randhawa's game also went awry but it had nothing to do with technique. A weary body and soul, caused by lack of sleep, refused to respond and the overnight leader was lucky to escape with an under-par round. The 71 meant Randhawa slipped to sole fourth at six-under 138.