New Delhi, Mar 9: Scuba diving in Phi-Phi island was the ideal preparation for a composed Jyoti Randhawa as he crowned the season’s fine performances with a two-stroke triumph at the $500,000 Thailand Open on Sunday.
While SSP Chowrasia’s challenge fell apart as his swing got awry on the final day, and Wales’ Rhys Davies threatened, the resurgent Indian kept his nerves in the rain to capture his eight Asian Tour title. A flawless five-under 65 and a tournament total of 17-under 263 at the Laguna Phuket Golf Club earned him a cheque of $79,250 (approx Rs 41 lakh).
"I knew when I made the birdie on the 15th that I would win but I had to keep the emotions in check," an elated Randhawa told TOI from Phuket. "Experience teaches that you have to finish the job."
Last season, he was burdened by a lack of motivation for not playing up to expectations but now, that distinct swagger and the trademark late surges are back. While the adventurer has rediscovered the spirit - "I need to chill out a bit" - he has perhaps realised that the trick is not to tweak.
"Last year, I was struggling with swing changes. I tried to alter a lot of things that I didn’t need to. I am more of a body player and I tried to use my hands too much that created inconsistency. I want to play golf my way and that’s the best way of doing it," the 36-year-old elaborated.
A tied second finish at the Malaysian Masters and a tied 7th at the Indonesia Open ushered good tidings. "My form has been pretty good and I had this feeling that I would win but then, on the second day, I was tied thirty-something," he recounted.
But Randhawa charged into contention with a remarkable 62 on the penultimate day and pulled one stroke clear of the other overnight leaders, Chowrasia and Davies, after shooting three birdies in the opening five holes of the final round on Sunday. He sustained his intensity on the back nine with further birdies on the 12th and 15th.
"I thought I could shoot some low numbers and I finally did," added the 2002 Asian No. 1. After the Thai high, Randhawa returns to India in search of more glory on home soil at the SAIL Open starting on March 18 and then after a three-week break, it will be back to the European Tour.
Goals for the season? I'll take it as it comes, he reiterated his old-and-gold mantra. And right now, kayaking is on top of the agenda.
Excellent week for Indians:
The tournament proved to be eventful for Indians. Overnight joint leader SSP Chowrasia, who began the day’s proceedings with an eagle only to fade away with a one-under final-day score, finished tied fourth. But young guns Gaganjeet Bhullar and Himmat Rai were tied 10th at 10-under while Anirban Lahiri was a stroke behind, tied 19th with a final day six-under 64.
It was a little too late for Indian-born Swede Daniel Chopra, who carded in a seven-under 63, to finish tied sixth while it was too early in the case of opening round leader Digvijay Singh, whose subsequent overpar rounds sunk him to the bottom of the barrel as he finished with a total of eight-over.