Shamim Khan's no-frills approach spills over on the course as well. Despite being in contention, the diminutive golfer is in a race against time. Two strokes shy of South Korea's Kim Hyung-sung, the 69 and tied seventh on the opening day was satisfying, but to guarantee his stock keeps rising at the Hero Honda Indian Open, Shamim will need to ensure that the equation with his three-wood undergoes a turnaround before he tees off on Friday afternoon.
The quiet being that he is, Shamim made his way to the uninhabited practice range to knock a few balls and intends to repeat the routine on the morrow. "In all the years spent at the Delhi Golf Club, - he turned pro in 1995 - I've never hit my three-wood so poorly," he said. The correction is essential if the homegrown talent is to reduce the chances of mis-hit on the narrow fairways.
The concern is unmistakable but the composed tone pointed to a man sure of his craft. "There's no way I can be denied the home advantage while chipping and putting. If it doesn't work for me from the start, it will eventually. The issue is to make the three-wood work otherwise it could be fire-fighting all the way."
Sanjay Kumar has played enough here, but unlike Shamim, the rotund Lucknow pro does not have an issue on hand, and was the best Indian on view at joint second with a 68.
One of the last groups to finish, it was a mad rush to finish as darkness set in quickly, but the late afternoon tee-off was a relaxed affair as Sanjay spaced out his birdies well on the front nine. After picking up shots on the 4th, 5th and 7th, the 39-year-old stuttered briefly after the turn but recovered with birdies on the 15th and 17th.
The day did not pan out well for the big Indian names. Shiv Kapur was the best of the lot at T21 with a 71, while Jyoti Randhawa, at T33, had an even par against his name. Arjun Atwal began well but three bogeys on his back-nine pushed him to T46 with a 73. The going was worse for Anirban Lahiri and he is precariously perched at the 82nd spot with a 77. If remedial measures are not taken, the Bangalorean, who was third last year, could be watching the weekend action from the sidelines.
For Kim, the leader, missing a spot at the season-ending Golf Nippon Series JT Cup on the Japan Golf Tour (JGT) has come as a blessing in disguise. Instead of brooding, the 30-year-old decided to journey and show his driving skills before an alien audience.
For one who was No. 1 in driving accuracy on the JGT last year and runner-up this year, landing the tee-shot on the fairways was routine, and, though slim, he broke away with a single-stroke lead.