Updated: March 12, 2017 11:51:46 am
Surrounded on three sides by the dense Southern Ridge forest, the beautifully landscaped DLF Golf and Country Club can lull you into believing that you are not in the urban nightmare that is Gurgaon. On Saturday, however, the course appeared to be mirroring the city when there was a hold-up at the fourth tee. The crowded box, with nine golfers from three groups waiting for their turn to drive, reminded you of city’s infamously clogged roads in the unlikeliest of the settings.
Overall too, the Hero Indian Open 2017 seems to have got stuck in the slow lane. The first two days saw weather interruptions, which meant the penultimate round couldn’t begin until Saturday afternoon as the backlog had to be cleared first. It has left the players, who have already been smarting from tough scoring conditions, physically and mentally exhausted. By the end of the day, as the sun dived behind the high-rises overlooking the ninth hole, SSP Chawrasia could be seen sitting cross-legged on the fairway, feeling his tired thigh muscles. It may not have affected his play to any discernible degree — he ended the day one-under (through 11 holes) and with a share of the lead at six-under — but not everyone could hold their game together. For example, his playing partner Danny Chia of Malaysia.
Chia had a long rollercoaster of day. Like score of others who couldn’t complete their round yesterday due to bad weather, Chia woke up very early this morning to finish the remaining holes. He did rather well with a three-under, which given his 70 after the first round gave him a share of the lead alongside the defending champion Chawrasia and Eddie Pepperell of England at the end of the second round. “I feel very tired. There’s a lot of waiting on the golf course. Mentally and physically, it’s a bit exhausting,” Chia said after completing the second round and before the start of the third. “It’s easy to make a mental mistake on this course.”
The statement was prophetic. Having taken the sole lead after a birdie on the first hole of the third round, Chia suffered a meltdown on the par-four second. His first tee shot disappeared in the thicket on the left and a retake ended in the bunker on the right. Chia foozled his approach, laying up way short. He was on the green in his fifth shot and took four more to putt. By the time he picked the ball from the hole, he had slipped down to one-under. At that point, it didn’t so much look like golf as a game of snakes and ladders.
“Well, this is a course where you’ve got to just hang in there when things aren’t going your way and try not to make a big number,” said Pepperell, who alongside Chawrasia saw Chia’s implosion from the proverbial box seat.
“Danny Chia birdied the first and then makes nine on the second. He’s not out of the tournament, but it will feel like that to him. That’s the kind of thing you’ve got to avoid around here. A bogey isn’t a bad score, it’s not going to do you much harm. I’ll just keep the same mindset, keep doing the same things, and see where I am this time tomorrow night,” added Pepperell, who shot one-under (through 11 holes) and shares the three-way lead.
For a couple of players, the course was more forgiving. Carlos Pigem of Spain fired a four-under to take his total to six-under. “There are still 25 holes to play. I’m in contention to win, so let’s see if I can do it,” he said after the third round was suspended at 27 minutes past six due to darkness. Pigem also echoed Pepperell’s sentiments on the layout. “The most important thing on this course is to have patience. This course is really tough and you need to know when you can be aggressive and when you should be more conservative,” the Spaniard said.
At least for one day, one man got this elusive balance spot on. The rookie Gavin Green of Malaysia, who wouldn’t been here if not for a sponsor invitation, made a birdie-bogey start to the third round before reeling off six birdies on the bounce starting the fifth hole. He then dropped a stroke on the 16th but chipped in another birdie on the next to take his tournament tally to five-under. It was then that the hooter was sounded to signal the suspension of play. Green, for one, wouldn’t have wanted this long day to get over.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines