As 21-year-old Chandigarh golfer Karandeep Kocchar emerged as a winner in the third play-off against 2016 Rio Olympian Anirban Lahiri in the Jeev Milkha Singh Invitational presented by Take Sports, Kochhar was lifted by his caddie Mahesh and later by father Sandeep Kochhar. With his grandparents Dr G S Kochhar and Dr Kanwarjit Kochhar and mother Reshma Kochhar also watching, it was Kochhar’s biggest win of his professional career as he pocketed a prize money of Rs 24,24,750. After all the drama and controversy, which happened on Sunday and saw Kochhar being imposed a one-stroke penalty by the tournament committee forcing the tournament finish to Monday, a first in PGTI history, it was a well- deserved triumph for Kochhar and the youngster termed the win a testament to his resolve.
“Honestly speaking, after all what happened yesterday, I was not mentally ready for the play-offs yesterday. But forcing the play-offs to Monday showed me that how mentally tough I am. I think I only learned in a positive way yesterday and today. Jeev sir told me the same yesterday and it’s a huge honour for me to win a tournament named after such a legend. My plan was to stick to my game plan and I practised some shots, including driver cut and sand wedge shot which I thought could help me. Today, I was thinking only about play-off and what needed to be done. The tournament was still there to be won and I am glad that I could do that,” said Kochhar while speaking to The Indian Express.
The 21-year-old maintained his composure and made a 15-ft birdie conversion on the third play-off hole and with Lahiri missing a 12-ft birdie putt, the Chandigarh youngster pocketed his second title as a professional golfer. While Kochhar was placed tied-76th with an opening round of four-over-76, Kochhar climbed 58 spots in the second round with a flawless round of six-under-66, the day’s lowest score. The third round would see the youngster carding a score of five-under-67 before he ended with a last round score of four-under-68 including the one-stroke penalty, which forced the play-off against Lahiri. The last three rounds would see Kochhar sinking 21 birdies and the Chandigarh golfer only dropped one bogey and one double bogey (After the penalty). The youngster credits the comeback to his belief and some brilliant wedge play. “Even though I shot a bad score in the opening round, I was very optimistic about my chances and told one of my friends that I can win this title. Perhaps, I was in awe of playing along with a player like Anirban Lahiri, whom I respect a lot. I played with my mind in the opening round. I guess the way I started the second round gave me the momentum and I could play the way I wanted to play. I think my wedge game was really good over the four rounds apart from the first two play-offs, where I attacked and knew that the other player could make a mistake,” Kochhar added.
Monday’s win also propelled Kochhar to 355th spot in the Official World Golf Rankings from last week’s 442nd spot and made him the third highest Indian golfer in world rankings after Rashid Khan and Udayan Mane. With the cut-off for the top-60 in the Tokyo Olympics golf rankings being June next year, Kochhar believes that he has a chance to bag an Olympic berth. “Next week, I will be playing in the PGTI Players Championship at Jamshedpur and to have a chance to win three out of three championships on the tour this season does not come again and again. Making the world take leap is huge for me and when you consider it for Olympics qualification, it is definitely on my mind. Whenever the Asian Tour restarts, my focus will be on that and I will focus on whatever comes my way week by week,” says Kochhar.
The youngster though believes that Sunday’s controversy did affect him. Kochhar also says that he is still not certain whether he will write to the R and A, one of the governing bodies of golf rules, about the issue. “I think whatever happened, should not have happened. My perception of the whole thing is that it could have been handled better and if I was told on the 17th hole about the penalty, I would have handled things differently. To change the ruling after I gave my version and players too said that version is not the way it should be done. Regarding writing to R and A, I guess I will think more about it and when I can think more clearly about the issue, I will see about that aspect,” Kochhar said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines