Wiping the unshaven face, he mumbled, "It seems the world has forgotten me." Having said so, he threw the towel on the table, almost in a symbolic gesture.
SSP Chowrasia, a two-time winner on the European Tour, has hit turbulence. It's been five months since he parted ways with his sponsor, and with the returns drying up since the euro 300,000 winner's cheque at the Avantha Masters in February, the genial golfer from Kolkata is feeling the pinch.
"It's (lack of sponsor) at the back of the mind and keeps coming back, especially after a bad round," he said with a hollow look in the eyes. Weeks of solitude while on tour in Europe, have only added to the woes. "Sitting alone in the hotel room, there've been occasions when I've felt like walking away, but then realisation dawns on what golf has given me."
Bobbing between hope and despair, Chowrasia understands a sponsor needs to be roped in fast if he is to retain his connect with Europe. Though armed with playing rights on the Tour till the end of 2013, mounting expenses (see box) have already forced him to reconsider strategy.
After teeing off for next week's Omega European Masters (in Switzerland) and the KLM Open (the Netherlands) the week after, Chowrasia plans to concentrate on the Asian Tour. With three months of action still left on the European Tour, the "attitude" is not desirable, given the time he's spent there since the win at the 2008 Indian Masters, but he looks on helplessly. "At least, I have a better chance of making money."
Economics has its side effects, and in Chowrasia's case, they could be career threatening. After a round of five-over on Day I of the Players Championship, he recovered well with a 71 to make the cut at the Classic Gold Resort, but he pulled out, citing "the lack of feel".
"Putting used to be my strength but it's the short game that's now letting me down," he said referring to the series of missed cuts. "When that happens, it slowly affects the long game (hitting) too."
Given his proven record, the dearth of sponsors is hard to comprehend. Though he smiled away the query if his humble upbringing had become a deterrent, doubts linger.
Neeraj Sareen, India head of International Sports Management, the agency that manages Chowrasia, too did not deny the factor. "Primarily, Indian companies are yet to wake up to the need to support professional golfers but yes, down the line that could be a reason."