S. S. P. Chawrasia touched a new high in his career following his second consecutive Indian Open win. After proving his mettle in Asian conditions, the experienced Chawrasia, who turned professional in 1997, has now set his eyes on scaling new heights in Europe and the USA.
The soft-spoken, self-made four-time European Tour winner, spoke to Sportstar about his evolution as a golfer and the steady improvement of Indian golf over the years.
Question: You have won the Indian Open twice. How important is the latest victory?
Answer: I am the second Indian to win back-to-back Indian Open titles. For us, the Indian Open is like the fifth Major because it is the National Open. This tournament, which was earlier an Asian Tour event and now a European Tour event, is growing every year. It is very good that Indians are winning this event. It is a good message for other (up and coming) Indian pros — they can think that if SSP can win it, why can’t we? I will be more than happy if new golfers from our country come up and win the event. The Indian Open happens in our homeland and if we win the event, it is good for Indian golf. We can show the world that we have got enough talent.
How has your game changed since you won your first European Tour event, the Indian Masters, almost a decade back?
My game has changed a lot. After 2008, after winning the (European Tour) event (in India), I was a bit shocked when I travelled to Europe. I had to cope with the weather and other things. I took a year to get used to the conditions over there. I realised that I needed to hit longer. I spent around two years before I realised how I should play (on the European Tour). Now I am sticking to my strong points and working to make those even stronger.
You are producing more good results in recent times...
Golf is a mind game. At this level, the skill level of every golfer is more or less the same. If someone loses an event, it is because the person does not have adequate mental strength. Because of this reason, I tried to become mentally stronger. Obviously, one needs to be physically strong as well. I have been working on these areas for the last eight to 10 years. Now the effect of all this is showing in my game.
Can you elaborate on the mental and physical aspects of your game?
I am doing gym four to five times a week. I am also doing meditation. It is of great help. One of my friend’s wife is a yoga teacher and I am working with her. I can feel the difference. I manage to squeeze in a yoga session in my daily schedule. If my tee off is in the afternoon, then I do it in the morning. If the tee off is in the morning, then I do yoga in the afternoon.
Every golfer tries to get better and do well in the European and USPGA tours. What are your next targets?
I have got a European Tour card till 2019 and my next target is to win in Europe. I will give my best there. Once I start doing well there, I will focus on playing on the USPGA Tour. Every professional golfer dreams of playing on such big tours and take part in the Majors. That is there in my mind as well. However, my first priority is doing well in Europe. I have been playing in Europe for a long time now and I have not done so well. I want to clear that from my mind before I take the second step.
Several Indian professionals are playing in the European and PGA Tours. However, we are not winning consistently on these tours. What could be the reason?
Our base is not so strong like other countries. If you take my example, I learnt golf on my own and picked up a lot of wrong things and continued for a long time. I had to change those in the course. But after a level, I realised that I needed to make more changes to my game. There was nothing when I started. Now one player is playing on the PGA Tour, several others are playing on the European Tour. The number of players has increased, teaching pros have increased and the facilities have enhanced. So all this is huge improvement in comparison to what was there 15 years back. Everything is getting better. In a few years time we should have enough number of players who would have come through the right structure.
What are your plans and targets for this year?
Last year I played 30 events. But this year I am planning to play in lesser number of events. I want to cut down on the number and focus on playing quality golf. Now I am 38 years of age and should travel a little less. This year, I am planning to play 27-28 events. Among the big events, I will play the six Rolex Series events on the European Tour, one Japanese Tour (co-sanctioned with Asian Tour) and another in China (European Tour). The reason of playing the Japanese event is that I am not far behind from the Order of Merit leader on the Asian Tour. If I can play well on the Asian Tour, then I have a chance to finish at the top of the OoM.
- Favourite golf course: Of course, the Royal Calcutta Golf Club course. Outside Kolkata, St. Andrews is my favourite course. That place is something different.
- Favourite title: So far, the Indian Open is my most favourite title. I have won it back-to-back. Especially, the second one is very dear.
- Favourite food: After Indian food, I love to eat Thai food. Outside India, I prefer Thai food.
- Favourite pastime: I love to gossip with friends in spare time. I rarely watch movies. And if I do it is mostly Aamir Khan’s movies. All of his movies are good. He does one movie in a year and that becomes a super hit.
- Favourite music: I do not get much time to listen to music. Very rarely, in two-three weeks I get some time. I love to hear (Bengali folk music) ‘Baul gaan.’
- Most favourite country and city: I like Switzerland a lot. Among the cities, I like London a lot. It is a very organised city.
- Favourite golfer: Tiger Woods is my favourite golfer.
- Favourite sport other than golf: I do not follow other sports much. I do want to try shooting some day.
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