Nothing can come between Amardip Sinh Malik and his free-flowing style. Malik was in disarray late last year when he sought the services of a noted mental trainer.
The motive was to join the ranks of those who swear by these experts. Purists would scoff at the haste, but within three months, Malik realised that instead of arming him, the advice was leaving the mind severely cluttered.
"It messed me up. Before every step, I started to ponder. It was like asking a fast player to slow down," he said.
The possibility of many-hued thoughts criss-crossing the mind was distinct as Malik, the overnight BILT Open leader, teed off on Thursday.
The excitement of shattering the course record at the Karnataka Golf Association could set the adrenalin racing, and the tendency to muff up a good start was equally unsettling. But Malik believed he was equipped to maintain a clean slate.
The nerves did jangle at the start, but making par on the first five holes calmed him and the focus was back on staying clear of baggage.
Proof was quick to come in the form of birdies on the next three holes.
"Today was more important and I had to shoot an under-par round to prove to myself that I'd improved as a player," he said after the 71.
The score placed him at nine-under 135 and a stroke ahead of defending champion Anirban Lahiri.
An unfettered Malik may have reined in the mind but he failed to influence the putter on the back nine.
"It went cold (two bogeys to the lone birdie), but by the law of averages, it should be ok tomorrow," he laughed.
From a spotless front nine (he teed off from the 10th) to missing a five-feet putt for eagle on the 1st that caused the concentration to lapse, Lahiri witnessed it all, as he recorded a consecutive 68.
Yet, it was an "exciting" round. The missed opportunity threatened to mess the card up but Lahiri picked himself up in time to claim two birdies.
"I started well yesterday but fizzled out. The finish was better today and my iron-play had a role to play. Some work is required on the ball-hitting and I hope to sort it," he said.
Even as Malik and Lahiri fought for supremacy, Gaganjeet Bhullar made a quiet but significant charge up the leaderboard.
Tied 57th with a 75, Bhullar shot a day's best 65 to be joint fourth.