The mention of Jyoti Randhawa instantly brings to mind the image of a gangly figure with a brooding visage. It was nothing short of a surprise when the two-time DLF Masters' champion came bounding out of the tournament office on Thursday with a smile that was matched his strapping structure.
Languishing at the 158th spot on the European Tour's Order of Merit, Randhawa has some ground to cover if he's to slip into the group of 115 who'll get to retain their card for the next season. It isn't a happy scenario but the equation changes dramatically when the man gets to work on Indian shores, and that too at the DLF Golf & Country Club, his home course.
A tied 10th in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, Scotland, is the best Randhawa has to show this season in Europe. Hence, ending Day I with a 67, which gave him a solitary stroke lead over the trio of Himmat Rai, Gaganjeet Bhullar and Karanjit Sandhu, was a break from monotony.
From exchanging firm handshakes to tossing the head up frequently, the change in body language was unmistakable. But it came about after some adjustments. "Coming from the lightening quick greens in Europe, it took me a while to adjust," he said.
The pace of the greens may not have been to his liking but Randhawa is too seasoned a campaigner to allow it to restrain him. Teeing from the 10th, he commenced well with a birdie on the 12th. A bogey on the next was the lone blemish and from there on, his stars were on the ascendancy.
"I putted well and even though I missed some, the ones that mattered I put away," said Randhawa. While on the 17th, the rain came down in sheets but by then the man was in cruise mode. "The rain was good for me as I got a birdie before it (16th) and one immediately after," he grinned.
Hitting the irons close throughout, the spot atop the leaderboard wasn't expected but Randhawa accepted it gratefully.
Whether the course played long or not was a debate Bhullar refused to get into. Hitting the ball long — his tee shot on the par-4 15th covered a distance of 350 yards, Bhullar grew in leaps and bounds as he went through a flawless round.
If at all there was a stumbling block for Bhullar, who interspersed his birdies equally on the front and back nine, it was the slowness of the greens towards the early part of the morning.