Even before Chinnarat Phadungsil could leave the 17th tee box, activity had started to pick up around the 18th green. Though not uncomfortable outside, the air-conditioners were whirring in the marquee area.
Situated on either side of the green, the tents were sparsely populated, but the sun had done enough to instill a sense of lethargy.
After a hand-picked menu of food and liquor, the desire may have been to detach, even if briefly, but there was no way of stopping news of the Thai’s frenetic activity from percolating the glass walls, spotless save the Avantha Masters’ logo.Even if one managed to turn a blind eye to the television sets inside, the giant screens around the clubhouse of the Jaypee Greens were screaming that the 24-year-old had set the course afire on the opening day.
Three-under at the time of making the turn, Chinnarat had picked up shots on each hole till the 17th. Anticipation was rife that the affable golfer, who became the Asian Tour’s youngest winner at age 17, would continue the sequence on the penultimate hole. A par three, little seemed to be in the way, but it threw up questions, which tested him.
The chain had been broken but the relief of making par gained precedence over regret, if any. The lead was his anyway, what remained to be seen was if he could add another shot to it.
Stupor broken, the well-heeled had begun to stream out, and by the time Chinnarat came on to take his approach shot to the green, quite a few were clutching on to the rails of the marquee area in anticipation.
Acknowledging the clapping, Chinnarat did what he’d done through Thursday — land the ball close to the pin. The birdie was there for the taking and he sealed it without a quiver.
At 11-under 61, Chinnarat had a five-shot lead over a bunch, which included the promising Abhijit Chadha.
Such had been the precision of following the “target of hitting fairway and green” that he had to think hard about the day’s longest birdie putt — a 25-footer on the 14th.
Chinnarat had bettered his best, a nine-under almost six years ago, but more than dwelling on that statistic, he was thinking of ways to cope on the morrow.
“There will be pressure, but I hope I’ll be fine,” he said in halting English.