Featuring in a multi-million dollar event or pitting his craft against the big boys does little to perturb Shamim Khan. Such has been the journey that the diminutive golfer is trained not to look beyond the self. Going off the prescribed path is rare and Monday at the Delhi Golf Club was no different.
The concern lay elsewhere. Coping with a viral infection, Shamim was aware the affliction could lead to a lapse in concentration. “Finding the bushes is quite normal here, but given my state, I was alive to the need to stay focussed and hit straight,” he said.
Coupled with this was the advantage of playing in his backyard, and Shamim finished the opening day of the SAIL Open two shots off the leader, Richard Karlberg, at five-under 67.
Tied fourth with Shiv Kapur, it was a fairytale start as Shamim packed in three birdies in the space of four holes. As he progressed, the wind came into play and slowed him down. Despite the impediment, he picked up shots on the 8th and immediately after making the turn.
The gusts finally took a toll and caused Shamim to err. A bogey followed on the 17th but he recovered to end with a birdie. Unlike Shamim, SSP Chowrasia, one shot ahead, did not require to be unmindful of the field. Competing at the highest level has armed him with that state of mind. A recent gain has been ending the title drought and it was a “freer” Chowrasia as he teed off at the venue where he won the Indian Masters two years ago.
After an ordinary front nine, which saw him make the turn at one-under, the Kolkatan saved a shot on the 11th.
It wasn’t as if the putter wasn’t responding, but call it luck or his game taking flight, Chowrasia zoomed up the leaderboard by rattling off birdies from the 15th till the end. “Starting with a birdie felt nice but at the DGC one is always on the guard. One misstep can ruin you,” he said.
Finishing atop the leaderboard was the last thing on Richard Karlberg’s mind. Suffering from jet lag, it was a grateful Swede teeing off in the afternoon. “I was lucky to tee off late or I wouldn’t have been able to wake up!” he said. Another issue was his inability to read the lines in the practice round on Monday. Help from his caddy solved the problem and the “putts started to fall in” for the Swedish circuit’s 2007 Order of Merit winner.