Striding out of the tournament office, Gaganjeet Bhullar paused briefly to study the billboard stationed nearby. Going over the catchline: They are many players, only few masters, brought a slight smile on the cherubic face.
The brief, albeit distinct, display of emotion was not to be misconstrued as the champion’s arrogance. Instead, it was the satisfaction of having found the perfect antidote to anxiety.
Prior to the final round of the DLF Masters, Bhullar had expressed concern over his swing and the tendency to miss close putts.
These coupled with the solitary stroke lead over an opponent as awesome as Jyoti Randhawa, had left the leader in some discomfort.
But on Sunday, Bhullar discovered concentration to be the ideal foil to angst as he focussed on “sticking to the routine”.
Not only did he hole a few difficult putts, the golfer even claimed to have got over his tendency to “hook to the left”.
If Bhullar got his bearings right, the same couldn’t be said about Jyoti.
Dropping consecutive shots on holes three to five meant all talk of a needle contest at the DLF Golf & Country Club were smothered.
The momentum gone, the home favourite failed to rectify his ills and a birdie was all he had to show on the back nine for a T4 finish with an eight-under 280.
Bhullar began with a hiccup as well, bogeying the second, but ending the front nine with three birdies off the last four holes meant the 21-year-old was competing against himself in a bid to equal a target of 16-under for the tournament.
That he settled at 15-under 273 was reflective of the blandness of the competition.
“The win here is as big as Indonesia (President Invitational, his maiden win on the Asian Tour) and coming up better against Jyoti is huge. His two-over (for the day) though is a surprise,” said Bhullar, who not only went atop the PGTI Order of Merit, the cheque of Rs 12,93,200 meant he had recorded his fifth win in as many starts on the domestic circuit.
While Jyoti fell away complaining of the heat and grainy greens, and an assured Bhullar slackening pace, interest, if any, shifted to Anirban Lahiri’s progress.
A day’s best of six-under, which was also his best showing at this course, meant the 22-year-old moved up from joint ninth to lie next to Bhullar at 10-under 278.
Looking to gain from this outing before the Indian Open, starting with back-to-back bogeys unsettled Lahiri, but playing alongside close friend Rahil Gangjee had a soothing effect and the positives gained precedence.