Choosing a spot on the practice greens, which allowed him the requisite slope for the drill, Himmat Rai got down to the task. Ever since he picked up a video of Phil Mickelson, one of the finest exponents of the short game, the method has stayed with him. He did turn away for a while to focus on the swing, but he’s back at it since last week.
“It works well for me,” said Himmat, as he went around placing tees around the hole to form a perfect circle. The exercise of sinking 100 balls from each ‘station’ without a break is to replicate the pressures of regulation play. Missing out can have taxing consequences. “You start all over again,” he said. Fighting off the urge to pause “when in the 70s”, Himmat completed the ton, but it was only the beginning of other routines. Once done, he moved back to double the distance, which had a correspondent effect on the pressure quotient.
It was the confidence that his putting skills would stay unaffected that had led Himmat to tend to other areas. While work’s on, he’s certain that the Mickelson drill will stay “for the rest of his life”.
He was at it when he broke through on the Asian Tour with the win at the 2011 Handa Singapore Classic, and the conviction cannot be clearer as he looks you straight in the eye.
The intensity, or too much of it, is another facet he’s been working on in the buildup to this week’s Avantha Masters. Armed with some fond memories of the Jaypee Greens, where he intends to mix “power and short game” to his advantage, Himmat is learning to let go.
“Too much of focus leaves me tired towards the end (of an event),” he said, something which hit his chances of finishing top-10 at the Gujarat Kensville Challenge last month.
There is now a conscious attempt to switch between “focus and wide focus”. If practice lasts for an hour, his mind is off the game during the 10-minute interval, spent just drinking water or chatting up fellow players.
Not one to seek professional help to read the mind, realisation has come with experience, and of course by reading up on greats like Ben Hogan and Gary Player.