Dread the day when IMG controls golf

KIRTI PATIL

AFTER a prolonged title drought, Gaurav Ghei played the kind of golf he is known for, and won the Royal Challenge Grand Prix at the Delhi Golf Club (DGC) course.

S. SUBRAMANIUM

Ghei is known as one of the most well-behaved golfer on the course, but that doesn't help win tournaments. Barring a few scattered wins during the past five years, he had done nothing spectacular. The inspiration was missing and Ghei badly needed a comprehensive win.

By winning the Rs. 8 lakh Grand Prix, a tournament on the Indian PGA Tour, Ghei may not have earned moneywise but surely it should help boost his confidence.

''I was struggling with my game for quite some time. I hope this win will help me to get back on the right track,'' said Ghei. The Delhi golfer has entered in five Asian PGA Tour events later this season.

Terming his win as a cherished one, Ghei said that he always felt special to carve out a win on the DGC, his home course.

On his route to the title, Ghei juggled around with the lead on the first two days.

A freak six-under 66 by Jumman on the opening day saw an unexpected leader. Jumman had a hole-in-one on the par-three fifth hole and also made an eagle to return an impressive score. The Lucknow-based Jumman was erratic on the remaining three days and was never in contention.

Ghei was a stroke behind on 67 while the PGA Champion Arjun Singh was tied for the third position with 69. On the second day Ghei carded 69 while Arjun broke away from the pack and joined him at the top, posting 67.

It was Arjun's sixth sub-par score in as many rounds. It had to end somewhere and he played level-par on the third day while Ghei surged ahead with 67.

Arjun made a late charge on the final day, but Ghei held off the challenge. Carding 70, Ghei punctuated the winning total of 15-under 273, three shots better than Arjun. The win earned Ghei a crystal showpiece and a cheque of Rs. 1,29,600.

''It was my tournament to lose. On the final day nobody could have beaten me. I had to play bad to lose,'' Ghei explained about his decision to play safe homewards.

Ghei had a five-stoke lead before he teed off on the final day. His edge over Arjun remained the same when they reached the clubhouse after completing the front nine. Arjun made a late charge by holing birdies on the par-fours, 11th and 13th, while Ghei parred those two.

On the next hole both were lying in for birdies. Arjun was on the uphill slope while Ghei had a clear line to the cup. Arjun overshot and parred, but Ghei made no mistakes. With the holes drying up fast, Arjun birdied the par-four 15th. Luck, however, deserted him as Arjun missed sure birdies on the remaining three holes. Once the ball stopped on the rim of the cup and twice it was inches short.

Arjun finished 12-under 276 and settled for the runner-up spot and a cheque of Rs. 89,600. The third place was shared by the local player, Ashok Kumar, and Amritinder Singh.

As a footnote, a word about the ways of the DGC would not be out of context. The DGC is centrally located and an ideal venue for the big events, but it has been increasingly losing the sponsor-confidence.

Already it lost the 300,000 dollar Hero Honda Masters, an Asian PGA event, to the DLF Golf and Country Club in Gurgaon, owing to its rigidness about various organisational matters. This year, Honda-Siel shunned the DGC and adopted DLF as the venue for the PGA Championship of India.

The DGC captain was obviously offended by the remarks made by the PGA Championship sponsor. It was said that the DLF provided more challenging conditions than the DGC, hence the move.

Well, Mr. Captain, that was for the public consumption. Could you explain why the DGC is not made available from Thursday to Sunday for a Rs. 25 lakh tournament, the biggest and the prestigious event on the Indian domestic tour?

All over the world, golf is played from Thursday to Sunday. The best of the courses, from St. Andrews in Scotland to Augusta National Park in the U.S. keep their weekends free.

The DGC dithers to share its Saturdays and Sundays, even twice or thrice in a year. Understandably, the sponsors would not like to have the final two days, and the prize ceremony, on a working day.

Thankfully, it has provided Thursday-Sunday period for the 2003 Indian Open, but the sponsor Royal Challenge had to confirm the dates, March 27-30, more than five months in advance.

But for the Royal Challenge Grand Prix, the DGC refused to bend and the golfers had to go through 10 days of continuous golf. The PGA Championship was held from October 3 to 6 with the pro-am event on October 2. And, after the Sunday finish in Gurgaon, action moved on to the DGC the next day with the Grand Prix's pro-am on Monday followed by the tournament main, from Tuesday to Friday.

The scores:

Gaurav Ghei (67, 69, 67, 70) 273; Arjun Singh (69, 67, 72, 68) 276; Ashok Kumar (70, 70, 70, 73) and Amritinder Singh (69, 71, 71, 72) 283; Shiv Prakash (69, 72, 74, 69) 284; Yusuf Ali (74, 74, 67, 70) 285; Jumman (66, 73, 72, 75) and Ranjit Singh (76, 69, 67, 74) 286; Rafiq Ali (72, 70, 74, 71) and Jyoti Randhawa (73, 70, 77, 67) 287; Sanjay Kumar (73, 75, 70, 70) and Rahul Ganapathy (75, 74, 70, 69) 288; Rohtas Singh (72, 71, 74, 73) and Vijay Kumar (71, 73, 76, 70) 290; S. S. P. Chowrasia (70, 75, 70, 76), Basad Ali (70, 73, 75, 73) and Mohammed Yamin (72, 73, 76, 70) 291; Ali Sher (71, 72, 74, 75), Monish Bindra (76, 73, 69, 74) and Chand Mia (74, 70, 75, 73) 292; Jaiveer Virk (77, 74, 72, 71), Uttam Singh Mundy (70, 71, 82, 71) and Vivek Bhandari (75, 74, 71, 74) 294.

IF it had its ways, the International Management Group (IMG) would reduce a golf tournament into a fashion parade. Then, the IMG would like to render a sports journalist into a mere 'hand-out' writer and the officials of the Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) of India, into some non-entities.

Till last year, the IMG had the rights to organise only one golf tournament, the Indian Open, an event on the Asian PGA Tour. This year, it has lined up a four-leg series of Royal Challenge Grand Prix tournaments, a part of the Indian PGA Tour.

During the Delhi GP at the Delhi Golf Club, the venue was swarming with the presence of mini-skirted models. They were there at various counters selling golf accessories and at the prize-giving ceremony carrying trophies and cheques.

Maybe that was just an attraction to please the sponsors. But, what do you do when the IMG staff prevents journalists from interacting with the PGAI officials.

In every sport, we take scores and results, and any other details from the right people appointed by the respective sports federation. A PR company distributing scores, two to three hours after the play has stopped, is an apology.

Moreover, it is an usual practice of going through the cards of the top performers, and of those stars who did not do well on that day.

The IMG doesn't like this idea, as we understand. It offers an explanation that journalists were barred from entering the tournament office, restricted only for its staff. Then, why not have a separate media room with a responsible person ready with all the required information?

Also, please don't squeeze in the PGAI officials into your office and then expect us not to approach them. Even the PGAI Secretary was told not to 'crowd' a fairly big bridge room. The official, obviously offended, stayed outside, on the lawns, on the final day of the tournament.

There has never been any such problem during the major part of the Indian golfing season, which is managed professionally and amicably by the Tiger Sports Marketing (TSM).

We wonder why it happens only when the IMG is at the helm.

Sensibly, the PGAI should take a leaf out of this experience and discuss it threadbare.

As and when the current contract with the TSM runs out, it would be prudent for the PGAI to take every aspect into consideration before naming the Tour managers for the next period.