Randhawa's class act

D. RAVI SHANKAR

Up, up and away! It was a Randhawa masterclass all the way in Bangalore.-K. MURALIKUMAR

FOR a man who is making hundreds of thousands of dollars playing golf abroad, the prize money in the Hero Honda Open South, staged at the Karnataka Golf Association course in Bangalore, would have been just pin money. But Jyoti Randhawa is not driven by the lure of big money. The second round of the southern swing of the Amby Valley tour 2005 was the ideal platform for the Delhi golfer to get some much-needed match practice and so he flew to Bangalore from Singapore via Delhi on the day of the tournament and gave it his best shot.

The Bangalore leg of the Professional Golfers' tour was not really a star-studded field. However, there was enough challenge with six Pakistani Golfers having gained entry through the Qualifying School in Pune. In fact, two of the golfers from across the border had made it a one-two finish at the Q School with Javed Inayat and Matloob Rana being winner and runner-up.

Mukesh Kumar from Mhow had just tasted success at the TNGF Open in Chennai and was raring to win back-to-back titles. Vijay Kumar, S. S. P. Chowrasia, Digvijay Singh, Ashok Kumar, Harinder Gupta and local caddie C. Muniyappa were talented enough to make the competition stiff. Notable absentees included Shiv Kapur, Gaurav Ghei, Arjun Singh, Uttam Singh Mundy, Rahil Gangjee and Amandeep Johl.

The KGA course had been battered by rains for at least a fortnight prior to the tournament and posed the biggest obstacle to the 120 golfers in the fray. A strong field of 12 amateurs too completed the line-up.

Jyoti Randhawa's entry certainly gave the rest of the Indian golfers a lot more to worry about. Mukesh played great golf on the opening day to return a card of five under 67 to take the lead. Mukesh had six birdies and a bogey on the opening to grab a three-stroke lead over the two Pakistanis, Inayat and Rana, who thoroughly enjoyed playing at the Bangalore course. Randhawa, shrugging off travel fatigue and loss of sleep, played very well to card one under 71 along with Ajai Gupta, Karanjeet Singh and S. S. P. Chowrasia. The rest of the golfers played to par and above par finding the greens too fast and fairways soggy from overnight rains.

With enough sleep and rest at his cousin Bambi Randhawa's place after the first day, Randhawa showed why he is among the top golfers of the country. A card of three under 69 saw Randhawa vault into a two-stroke lead over Harinder and Ajai Gupta on the second day. Mukesh played well below his usual style returning a four over 76 as the tournament sifted the qualifiers with the cut being applied at 156 cumulative for two rounds.

Randhawa was in his elements on the penultimate day. Two great holes resulting in eagles (9th and 11th) and a string of birdies saw him pull ahead of the field by six strokes. Mukesh played to par 72 and was in second place while Matloob Rana and Harinder Gupta jointly occupied the third spot.

Randhawa's plan for the final round was to play safe and let the others do the catching up. Steadying his nerves, he was a greatly relieved man after finishing the eighth hole.

On his previous visit to the KGA, Randhawa was in similar circumstances and on the eighth hole suddenly found things could go awry in a jiffy. Landing twice in the water hazard on the eighth then, Randhawa slipped from a winning position to be a challenger to the new leader. In this year's tournament, he made no mistakes and safely negotiated the jinxed hole. By the time the leader group had reached the 15th, Randhawa was comfortably ahead by more than eight strokes. Mukesh had just no chance of catching up with the leader and finally ended up six strokes behind. Randhawa's brother-in-law Digvijay Singh failed by one stroke to share the second place with Mukesh.

In the amateur's event local caddie P. Krishna was a runaway winner. The youngster's entry in the amateur's section was clinched after much deliberation and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands to beat Riad Mahmood to the title.

The results Professionals: Jyoti Randhawa (71, 69, 69, 74) 283. Mukesh Kumar (67, 76, 72, 74) 289. Digvijay Singh (74, 72, 72, 72) 290. Amateurs: P. Krishna (80, 82, 82, 83) 327. Riad Mahmood (85, 78, 89, 86) 338. Aashray Goel (86, 86, 84, 83) 339.