When he is in town and not playing a practice round with "buds (buddies)" Manav Jaini and Naman Dawar at the Delhi Golf Club (DGC), Chiragh Kumar follows a punishing schedule. The drive from his sprawling house on Amrita Shergill Marg, in central Delhi, to Gurgaon's Golden Greens Golf & Country Club is around 60km and far from smooth, particularly the final stretch of seven kilometres when one veers off NH-8 into Village Sakatpur. Traffic snarls, which are routine, can prolong the journey to beyond three hours, and even after alighting at the clubhouse, there is little breathing space.
Frog walks, duck jumps and lunges, components of the demanding physical regimen, await him at the academy. By the time coach, Pritam Saikia, is done, standing erect is a challenge. "Since we came together (six months ago), this has been his schedule, and never have I seen him frown," said Saikia.
On Friday, not a muscle on the chiselled face twitched when he dropped a shot on the 13th and went on to repeat the "silly mental mistakes" on the 15th.
The fleeting reference to the bogeys was understandable as the focus was on "sticking to strengths", putting, in his case. For the second day at the Hero Indian Open, Chiragh's putter stood the DGC test, and the five-under 67 (overall 13-under 131) helped him stay on top.
The three-stroke lead over Australia's David Gleeson triggered a scramble for interviews, but for Chiragh, the fluency is the extension of an ongoing process. The Players Championship at Mumbai in September, which he lost in a playoff, saw him err just twice during the four rounds --- once on the front-nine on Day I and on the 16th on the final day.
The family turning out in full strength to cheer their boy was inspiring, but while being watched by loving eyes, Chiragh did not forget to repeat what's been practiced for some time. "People asked if I expected to shoot another good round. For me, it was doing the job again."
Teeing off from the 10th, birdies on the 11th and 12th helped matters as they got the momentum going and all the dropped shots did were tarnish the scorecard. On his back-nine too, Chiragh wasn't short on motivation. After a lull, a 20-footer for par on the 6th stirred him up and set the stage for two consecutive birdies.