Eager too smooth the rough edges, Jyoti Randhawa and Shiv Kapur made an early touchdown at the DLF Golf and Country Club on Wednesday. Illness had kept Randhawa away from the Omega European Masters earlier this month. Weariness and lack of match play reflected in his performance at the Mercedes-Benz Championship — a 77th spot at 32-over.
Thursday perhaps will signal a new beginning. Randhawa's cheerful disposition was proof that the fruitful practice round "in his backyard" on the eve of the DLF Masters seemed to have lessened the pain of the last-place finish in Cologne.
In fact, Randhawa, the defending champion of this Rs 80 lakh event, seemed to relish the "tough" conditions on offer and even said, "Pressure is the reason is why we play professional golf."
Kapur's has been a "stop and start" season, encapsulated in his rise and swift fall at Crans-Montana. The 26-year-old led proceedings midway on Day I of the European Masters before putting woes triggered a plunge that contributed to his missing the cut.
"The issues I had with my drive at the start of the year are settled but putting remains a problem," said Kapur.
It was an expectant S.S.P. Chowrasia who embarked on his maiden European stint in April. The journey till now has been unimpressive but the wiry player was not at hand to recount his experiences. A wrist injury has forced his withdrawal.
If the stars had concerns to reckon with, there were no such issues with the lesser lights. Striking a balance between golf and a yet-to-be-released music album, a buoyant Gurbaaz Mann recounted his chances in the field of 120.
"Given my current form, a top-10 finish is within reach," he said, rubbing a day-old stubble. Their frames were bathed in sweat but the discomfort did little to wipe the smile off Shamim Khan and Ashok Kumar's faces. Cooling down in a group after practice in the shade of the 10th tee, the duo were engaged in banter before Ashok stood up and left with a wave of the hand. "Where are you going," queried Shamim. The sturdy golfer replied, "To collect the trophy," to peals of laughter.
Clubbed with Kapur and Digvijay Singh, Ashok, boosted by the runner-up spot behind Rahul Ganapathy in the just-concluded AIS Open, is confident he has the wherewithal to leave a mark on the event that will have professionals teaming with amateurs for the team championship on the last two days. PGTI tour commissioner, Ajai Gupta, said, "Last year's experiment of having two pros and an equal number of amateurs slowed proceedings considerably. A team will now comprise two pros and an amateur and the score will be calculated by taking into account the two best scores on a hole-by-hole basis," he said.