Losing the race to the order of merit title though rankles, Mukesh Kumar is too seasoned a campaigner to be smothered for long.
After the near-miss at the CG Open last week, the pro from Mhow is looking to iron out a "debilitating" flaw and enjoying the week at the Delhi Golf Club (DGC).
At Rs 37,68,417, Mukesh is at a distance from Ashok Kumar (Rs 52,31,625). The equation could have altered in Mumbai but for some wayward putting. "I'm at a loss, the 10-15 feet putts are cakewalk but I just can't seem to sink the short (2-3 feet) curling putts. But for it, I could have finished better than Mandeo (Pathania, the winner at the Bombay Presidency Golf Club)," he said.
The problem has not set in all of a sudden. It's been around this year and seriously inconvenienced him during the Indian Open, which spoiled Mukesh's charge on the final day and he had to settle for a joint fifth.
As part of the ongoing effort, Mukesh descended early at the DGC on Tuesday. "There's no easy way out, practice and more of it is the only solution," he said on the eve of the LG Masters of PGTI.
The season's year-ender, which is open to the top-60 on the order of merit, will not witness a cut and offers a prize-money of Rs 1 crore. Even if Mukesh were to pocket the winner's cheque of Rs 15 lakh-plus, Ashok would be walking up the dais on Sunday to be feted for finishing No.1, a fact the former has accepted with a grit of the teeth.
"That title may have eluded me but it hasn't blunted the hunger to go for a win. In a way, the load's off me and I will be playing bindass," he said while watching the ball roll in for a putt at the practice green.
The build-up on Tuesday left the 45-year-old confident of holding his own in a field that boasts of Jyoti Randhawa, playing on a sponsor's spot, and Gaganjeet Bhullar besides Ashok, the defending champion, but warned the scores wouldn't plunge too low at this tight course.
"The conditions have changed since the Indian Open. Not only are greens slower, the grass on the left and right has been cut significantly. Also, with the temperature dipping further means the course is playing longer," he said.