Arjun Singh Chaudhri’s craft places him in the category of players who’d tell you: “I’m getting better at golf because I’m hitting fewer spectators.”
Coming through the Q-School, the season has been a tale of struggle, a T25 in the recent BILT Open being his best so far. So, when the 30-year-old local pro finished atop the leaderboard at the Noida Golf Course, a faint smile came to play on the lips.
Enjoying near-perfect chemistry with the course, Chaudhri thrived on a day that saw 97 golfers, in a field of 116, return over-par cards.
The five-under 67 not only handed him a solitary shot lead at the ONGC Masters, the round led him to believe that the hours put in with his mental conditioner were yielding fruit.
“The momentum’s been going in the last two-three events,” he said, referring to the joint 21st in the Indian Oil Xtra Premium Masters at Digboi in September.
Drawing from the “gains”, Chaudhri was off to a conventional start, making par till the 6th. A birdie on the next stirred things up, and by the time he made the turn, “the putter was on fire”. Making light of a dropped shot on the 10th, Chaudhri surged ahead and picked up five shots in the space of eight holes.
The highlight was the manner in which he holed some long putts, 30-footers to be precise, for birdies on the 15th and 18th. The 7th was another example when he fired the ball downhill from about 18 feet.
Notwithstanding the familiarity, Chaudhri’s show on the back nine was credible as the greens proved difficult to read on account of their newness. This and the gusty conditions played a major role in the plethora of sub-standard cards on Wednesday.
The case wasn’t different for Shamim Khan. Struggling to cope with his below-par putting and the freshness of the greens, the 73 and a T16 meant the defending champion had little to cheer about, and even the news of contender Mukesh Kumar pulling out with a hand injury failed to enthuse him.