2007 flashback - Randhawa makes it three
The Asian Tour heads to the Hero Honda Indian Open this week, which is the fourth event to be staged on the sub-continent. With a record prize fund of US$1 million on offer, an outstanding line-up of stars will gather at Delhi Golf Club, where Jyoti Randhawa enjoyed a record-equalling third Indian Open victory in 2007.
Jyoti Randhawa's love for motorbikes is well-known. The Indian star, who once fractured a collarbone after a bike crash but recovered sufficiently to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit that same year, now owns three high powered mean machines.
Throughout the week of the Hero Honda Indian Open in 2007, while many depended on courtesy cars and shuttle buses, Randhawa rode his bike from home to the Delhi Golf Club, a distance of 25km each way.
Meanwhile, Hero Honda and Indian golf's association is another amazing tale. Of the nine events Hero Honda has sponsored on the Asian Tour, seven have been won by Indians; four by Randhawa alone - two each of Hero Honda Masters and Hero Honda Indian Open.
After a quick return from Europe and playing the Pro-Am as his only practice round, Randhawa quickly acclimatized himself to the demanding Delhi Golf Club's course which is often so brutal with its narrow fairways and bushes.
The Hero Honda Indian Open also saw Jeev Milkha Singh, the 2006 Order of Merit winner, returning to action in his home country after a long, long time. So long that even Singh could not recall when he last played in his National Open.
But when the event began in full earnest, it was Delhi Golf Club's old favourite Gaurav Ghei, who made light of a neck strain and an unexpected delay caused by a police fine - to card a 66 that gave him a share of the lead with another Indian Gurbaaz Mann and four others including Danny Chia of Malaysia, Australian David Gleeson, Thai Chapchai Nirat and Korean Hur In-hoi, giving the leaderboard a great international look.
Underlining the strength of Indian golf were four Indians in the bunch of seven, two shots behind the leaders. But defending champion, Randhawa, was way behind with a 70.
Randhawa eventually got used to the slick greens and made a move on the second day with a 69, pushing him to tied eighth, to where Ghei had slipped with a 73. At the top was big-hitting Chapchai and Chang Tse-Peng of Chinese Taipei, who burnt the course with a superb 65.
As the crowds gathered on Saturday to set up a carnival-like atmosphere, Randhawa shifted into high gear and roared into life. His third round 67 brought him level with Chapchai, who stumbled to a 73.
On the final day, Randhawa never lifted his hand off the accelerator. While Chapchai fell off the pace with a front-nine 39, Chang made a bold charge with an outward 33 to come to within two shots of the Indian hero.
On the homeward stretch, Randhawa missed a couple of birdie chances, but made no bogeys until the 15th. However, a sensational eight iron from 171 yards for a stunning eagle two on the 16th hole virtually sealed the title for Randhawa.
"I couldn't have dreamt it better, finishing in the cup," said Randhawa, who a little later finished champion, three clear of Chang.
Behind Randhawa and Chang were Indians galore - Rahil Gangjee in third place and a trio of Indians Arjun Singh, S.S.P. Chowrasia and Ashok Kumar, all at 283, adding to the belief that Indians are really Tigers on home course.
Randhawa, who joined Australian legend Peter Thomson as the only players to win three Indian Open titles, said: "The National Open means a lot to me. It is like the fifth Major. Winning it once was great, twice was superb but three times.... that's fantastic and to be counted alongside the legendary Peter Thomson, is indeed an honour."
Leading final round scores
275 - Jyoti Randhawa (IND) 70-69-67-69
278 - Chang Tse-peng (TPE) 68-65-77-68
280 - Rahil Gangjee (IND) 71-67-76-66
281 - Mitchell Brown (AUS) 74-71-69-67
282 - Lu Wen-teh (TPE) 68-75-67-72, David Gleeson (AUS) 66-68-76-72, Chapchai Nirat (THA) 66-67-73-76, Mark Brown (NZL) 71-72-64-75
283 - Arjun Singh (IND) 73-70-71-69, Ashok Kumar (IND) 68-73-73-69, S.S.P. Chowrasia (IND) 68-71-74-70
284 - Peter Senior (AUS) 70-70-76-68
285 - Jeev Milkha Singh (IND) 72-74-71-68, Ross Bain (SCO) 69-72-73-71, Keith Horne (RSA) 71-70-73-71, Uttam Singh Mundy (IND) 70-76-68-71
286 - Chinarat Phadungsil (THA) 70-70-75-71, Mars Pucay (PHI) 70-70-74-72
October 8, 2008