The process may have taken time, but the “magic” of the Delhi Golf Club has finally caused Baek Seuk-hyun to succumb. Even after the opening day of the Hero Honda Indian Open, a mention of the venue brought a scowl on the baby-face. “I don’t like this course, I played badly at the SAIL Open (in March),” were his words.
After the third day, the sight of the 20-year-old Korean jumping animatedly near the scorer’s office was a source of amusement, especially for the startled sambar deer that stopped devouring a loaf of bread to behold the spectacle.
Such was the level of excitement during Saturday’s round, which lasted a shade over four-and-half hours, Baek forgot about the bottle of water in his bag. “I just hit my shots and before I knew it, I was on the last hole,” he said, the excitement refusing to die down. At 10-under 206, the prospect of starting Sunday a stroke ahead of Sweden’s Rikard Karlberg was something Baek found difficult to fathom.
It was a conservative start, which saw him negate the two birdies by dropping a shot, and there was little indication of what lay in store. Even after making the turn, Baek played for par on the 10th but thereafter the script took an about-turn. If an eagle on the ensuing hole gave a two-stroke lead, dropping three shots over 12th and 13th cancelled the advantage. But Baek, who had started the year on scratch --- “no game, no caddie”, was in no mood to be undone.
Moving base eight years ago was a calculated risk, “It’s cheaper to play in Thailand as compared to Korea,” he claims. Baek took another chance by pulling out the driver. “I was more accurate with the tee-shots,” and it resulted in birdies on the 14th, 15th, 17th and 18th for a card of 68.
After a T10 at the King’s Cup last week, the Korean is striving for another strong finish in a bid to keep his Asian Tour card. He is not the only one who’ll tee off in pursuit of a mission on Sunday.
Four shots shy of Baek, Mukesh Kumar, along with Manav Jaini, was the best-placed Indian at joint third, and the 45-year-old from the Military Headquarters of War (Mhow) is alive to the situation. “I might never get another chance to win the biggest prize in Indian golf. Except Indian Open, I have won everything at home. It’s time to set the record straight,” he said after carding a third consecutive 70.
At three-under, Mukesh made the turn in joint lead with Baek but bogeys on the 10th and 12th pulled him down. He did salvage the situation somewhat by picking up a shot on the 15th, but the momentum had gone.