Even before he approached the 18th green, Jyoti Randhawa had spotted the lone figure, stretched out near the bunker closest to the pin.
As he drew nearer, the gentleman's lip movements made it clear he was in conversation.
Once within earshot, Jyoti feigned anger. “I knew you
were on the phone,” he said, pointing to the headset. Before lining up for the putt, he looked back and said in a menacing tone, “It's important for me”.
A birdie would have left him two clear of Ajeetesh Sandhu, and in hindsight, let him hold the DLF Masters for the third time in six years.
The man had ceased to speak, but the friendly banter probably caused a momentary lapse of concentration. Jyoti fell short, and even after making par, he stood by the fringe grimacing.
It was yet to dawn on him that the cheque of Rs. 15,35,675 had slipped out, and Jyoti left with one last shot at the acquaintance. "I'll see you later."
Ajeetesh's tumble --- he preferred to attribute it to "bad luck", and Jyoti's surge on the final day at the DLF Golf & Country Club had had the latter taking the lead after his 17th.
His craft may have taken a hit but Jyoti's reputation as a finisher remains intact in these parts. And the way Ajeetesh had squandered a seven-stroke advantage, the holiday crowd had passed its verdict.
Coming on the heels of a dropped shot, the birdie on the penultimate hole raised a glimmer of hope, but few gave Ajeetesh a chance of forcing the playoff.
Not keeping an eye on the leaderboard had helped, and staying "calmer than what I expected myself to be," Ajeetesh descended on the 18th.
Watching him traverse from one double bogey to another, Sandhu Sr had nodded sadly that the son had left too much for the end.
The playoff happened and Jyoti made a quiet retreat. The abrupt move after the culmination could be excused. Despite shooting a flawless 69, he had been upstaged by a rival who had a 76 to show, but had risen when it mattered.