As the unexpected showers over the DLF Golf & Country Club gained intensity, the grin on Jyoti Randhawa’s weather-beaten face got wider. “It’s good that it has happened,” he said surveying the rain-swept landscape from the safe confines of the tournament office. “Not only will the rain help settle the dust, the course will play softer and one can go for the pins as the ball won’t roll much.”
Explaining his stand, Randhawa said, “The greens are undulating and unless one hits it close, the ball tends to roll onto the rough.”
For one not in the pink of form, extraneous factors like the weather can be a handy aid, but Randhawa is too seasoned a campaigner to rely on stilts. However, he did warm up at the prospect of teeing off for the Avantha Masters on his home course. “I’m comfortable on this course and having played and won (the DLF Masters in 2007 and 2008 count among his recent triumphs) here does add to the confidence,” he said.
Coming into the European Tour event, which gets underway from Thursday, after missing the cut at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, Randhawa was forthright on his chances. “Fifty-fifty,” was the blunt reply. “I made some changes to the swing last year and it takes six-seven months to adjust. Another factor is that I’ve been playing a lot (he was on tour for nine weeks in October-November, a first for him) and whatever little time I got, there’s been laziness with practice.” To be clearer, he added: “The key is to keep playing, you never know when form will be by your side.”
The venue may have been in full bloom with the riot of colours drawing attention, but the trained eye of Randhawa was quick to spot the shortcomings.
“I played the front nine and the greens are not in great shape.
There are pitch-marks all over, but I guess there’s little they could have done given the harsh winter. The course may not be long by European standards, but we can still expect the winning score to be over 15-under.”
For a tournament offering a prize purse of $2.1 million (Rs 9.5 crore approx.), the absence of European Tour bigwigs failed to surprise one who is a regular on that Tour.
“Top players prefer to play three weeks at a stretch,” Randhawa said pointing to the period between January 21 to February 7, which encompassed blue riband events like the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, Qatar Masters and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
“Travelling to India and back is tiresome, besides the scheduling is such that many of the top names have opted for the WGC —Accenture Match Play Championship (Feb 17-21) on the PGA Tour.”