The havoc wreaked by the unrelenting rain since the early hours of Sunday meant soggy stretches at the DLF Golf & Country Club were a natural byproduct. As news trickled in that the “waterlogged course and greens” had caused the final round of the DLF Masters to be called off, gloom seeped into the clubhouse.
As word spread, it drew muted groans and soon one long face was greeting another. Wading his way through the slush and dreariness, the cheery figure of Ashok Kumar appeared and his entry impacted the listless setting. Bystanders would have credited the glow on the champion’s face to a career-biggest pay cheque of R 15,35,675. But for the man it was a moment to celebrate the successful amalgamation of a few other aspects.
Known for his aggressive style, Ashok has come a long way from the days when “mindless aggression” proved counterproductive. “Earlier, when I stumbled, double and triple bogeys were normal. My style goes against me even now, but a slip will translate into a bogey, not more,” said the new PGTI Order of Merit leader.
The softening has come with time, but Ashok prefers to credit it to the mental conditioning course his sponsor, Girish Krishnamurthy, made him go through in Delhi earlier this year. “The exhaustive sessions from 9 am to midnight opened new vistas of thinking,” he said.
The fresh perspective may have booked him a berth in November’s joint-sanctioned Barclays Singapore Open, but the mind was ill at ease at the start of the week.
Since his return from injury in late August, Ashok’s hitting had been a point of serious concern. Getting the irons refitted on Day II brought back the feel, he was craving for. The road ahead, as Ashok put it, “is open and more good golf is to follow”.
Even in his hour of glory, “Shok”, as the nickname goes, did not forget his benefactors, be it his sponsor or fellow-player, Vinod Kumar, who lent him a driver for the tournament. The magnanimity was heart-warming as was the humility.
Asked to address questions from a sofa as reporters gathered around him, Ashok shot down the proposal, saying, “It won’t be proper,” and fielded questions in an upright position. Right through, questions on the confidence surfaced. Finally, Ashok said excitably, “Course tod diya, aur kitna todon (I’ve scorched the course, what more do you want?)? Feel tagraa aa rahaa hai, aage bhi tod dena hai (The feeling’s good, I'll continue to attack the field).”