Being a part of the business end of tournaments has become a habit with Vijay Kumar, and naturally, any deviation from the routine would cause considerable angst. The 2002 Indian Open winner missed the cut at last week’s PGTI Players Championship, his first miss in three seasons, and the early ouster in Panchkula left the veteran pro groping for answers.
Remedial measures followed but the 41-year-old from Lucknow wasn’t sure if they would come good on the course. On Wednesday, the opening day of the Solaris Chemtech Open, Vijay put the changes on test at the Classic Golf Resort, and came out smiling.
“My hitting has been bad, especially last week, and when that’s the case it puts pressure on the putting too. After Panchkula, I realised the body (read the arms and shoulders) was getting stiff while coming down on the ball, thus reducing the force of the strike. Since then, there’s been a conscious attempt to be loose-limbed while hitting and it came off today,” said Vijay after carding a five-under 67, which placed him two shots clear of the Calcutta duo of SSP Chowrasia and Rafick Ali Mollah.
Teeing off from the 10th, it was cautious start for the burly golfer, making par till the 14th before the first birdie happened on the ensuing hole. Vijay closed his front nine by picking up another shot and with it dawned the realisation that the hours put in at the practice range were yielding good return.
Hitting the ball close to the pin meant the confidence was up, and soon after making the turn, Vijay sank a 25-feet putt on the 2nd and repeated the birdie-making exercise on the next and 7th. Aiding him in the endeavour was the shipshape condition of the course. Lest it be interpreted as cakewalk, Vijay clarified, “The tees and fairways might be in perfect shape but it doesn’t mean that the course is playing easy. It’s a competitive field and a battle is on the cards.”