Chikka ready for battle with remodelled game

Home favourite aims for hat-trick at TAKE Solutions Masters.

Chikkarangappa has his eyes firmly set on a hat-trick when the TAKE Solutions Masters – now an Asian Tour event – begins at the KGA course here on Thursday   -  K. Murali Kumar

S. Chikkarangappa has fine memories of the TAKE Solutions Masters. He won the previous two editions of the event, back when it was on the Asian Development Tour: and both in dramatic fashion. In 2014, he clawed his way back from a six-shot deficit on the final day; a year later, he prevailed over Shubhankar Sharma in a tense play-off. Both results triggered euphoric scenes at the Eagleton course, where the Bengaluru golfer was borne by boisterous caddies on their shoulders.

Chikkarangappa has his eyes firmly set on a hat-trick when the TAKE Solutions Masters – now an Asian Tour event – begins at the KGA course here on Thursday. He is prepared to deal with the weight of expectation that comes with being the home favourite. “When I won this the last two times, there were always expectations from people,” he said after a practice round here.

“These are people who have always followed me and cheered for me. There is always pressure from the home crowd. At the same time there is also the positivity of them coming out and screaming for you when you make birdies. That's a really nice feeling. The last two times, I've won the events on the last hole with the last putt. It's not like I won by a big margin or anything. I like being pushed.”

This season has been far from ideal for Chikkarangappa, who has made only three cuts in nine starts on the Asian Tour. “It's grass; sometimes you do well and sometimes you are suddenly in bad form,” he said. “That happens. You just have to learn how to get out of it. I have had a good one-month break and sorted out a lot of things mentally and physically. I've spent quality time with my coach (Vijay Divecha).”

The 23-year-old has worked on his game, making what he calls “huge” changes. “Putting, which was my strength since the day I started golf, has been a little off for quite some time,” he said. “I have completely changed the way I putt. For me to be on the next level, I had to do it, to adapt to greens overseas. They're much faster compared to Indian greens. This is going to be the first week where I will try it out.”

Chikkarangappa elaborated: “I’ve just changed the way I grip the putter. With regard to the long game, my right shoulder used to stay down and I used to miss the ball. When I was under the gun and had to really play the shots, it would be a problem. We've made the shoulders more level now and tried to sort it out because that's been there since my childhood. It's a huge change and it's been a really tough task for me.”

Victory on Sunday will be a giant step towards reviving a troubled campaign. “Every player would love to win an Asian Tour event at home,” he said. “For me to complete a hat-trick would be really awesome.”

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