Stroking the trophy fondly, a grateful Chapchai Nirat had the select gathering empathising as to how relieved he was to break a three-month title drought.
On an energy-sapping Saturday afternoon, those who arrived in time to see the Thai sink his final birdie for a possible world best of 32-under 256, may have gasped at the 11-stroke winning margin, but for those following the action from the start, the triumph was preordained.
Or how would one translate the readings at various stages of the SAIL Open. After setting a course record of 10-under on the opening day, the 25-year-old, drawing heavily from his golfer father's advice to be fearless, went on to repeat the feat.
Watching him enter the scoring area to submit his card, a caddy remarked in his parlance, “Isko jinn chadh gaya hai, jeetne ke baad hi utrega, (A genie has possessed him, it'll let go only after he wins).” Friday's seven-under may have left Nirat remorseful at the inability to complete a hattrick, but looking at the ever-swelling lead, a club official couldn't help remark, “It's amazing how the wind has held up here at this time of the year, seems as if the weather gods are by his side.”
After the deed had been sealed at the Classic Golf Resort, the words of Aussie Richard Moir, who tied second with Gaganjeet Bhullar, summed up the overwhelming display. “It's not often that at 21-under one loses by 11 strokes!” The pin positions tucked away on the final day, the going was always going to tough.
The returns diminished but that had little effect on Nirat's bearing. Keen on adding to the overnight eight-stroke lead over Bhullar, he pressed on by picking up birdies on the 2nd and 6th. Another followed immediately after making turn while the 12th saw a similar result. Nirat descended on the 18th tee with a 31-under, needing a birdie to set a “new low”.
But the Thai, who will be attending the PGA Tour's Qualifying School at the end of this year, denied any pressure. “The eye was on winning and not on the world record,” he said. That it happened was accepted as a “bonus”. Blemishes, if any, were just two --- a bogey apiece in the second and third rounds. As for Bhullar, the craft failed to match his intention.
“The attempt was to repeat yesterday's form but I struggled with the driver and the hitting too wasn't great,” he said. Off to the Japan Tour's Q-School in September to open the doors for more dough and world ranking points, the 20-year-old saw plenty of positives from the outcome. “Competing at the Asian Tour has sharpened my game, so there's only one way to go, up,” he smiled.