Ernie Els shot a horror quadruple bogey to lag 10 behind leader Jyoti Randhawa at the inaugural Indian Masters on Thursday, with the local star eagling the last for a two-shot lead.
Irishman Damien McGrane played two rounds with Tiger Woods at the Dubai Desert Classic last week and the world number one’s magic clearly rubbed off as he fired a 67 to lie second, alongside Englishman Richard Finch.
Rejuvenated Dane Thomas Bjorn, Delhi resident Shiv Kapur and Spain’s Jose Manuel Lara lurk one further back at the $2,5-million event, while United States veteran Mark O’Meara rolled back the years with a 69.
Randhawa, who posted four top-10 finishes on the European Tour last year, used his local knowledge to good effect, putting together three birdies and two eagles.
But fellow Indian Jeev Milkha Singh, seen as a favourite to win, succumbed to the pressure with a poor 77.
Randhawa has won on the Lodhi course five times before and he thought back to those victories to tailor his game.
”My past performances helped a lot,” he said.
”I’ve won a few times here before and I thought back to that and it helped. What I did before, I did again.
”As long as I can keep to the same things and handle the pressure this week, I’ll be alright.”
McGrane has never won a European Tour event but was boosted by playing with Woods, although he was reluctant to give credit to the world’s best.
”I enjoyed playing with Tiger, he encouraged me all the way. It’s nice to play with the world’s top player and survive the experience,” he said.
”But every week is a new beginning, a new start. It was all about making the birdies whenever possible today [Thursday].”
Bjorn, a nine-time winner on the European Tour, looks to have rediscovered his touch after a wretched season last year.
”I played pretty solid until the last three holes really. I was just steady off the tee,” said the Dane.
”You’ve got to play conservatively and try to keep within the perimeters of the golf course and try to get the most out of your day. If you try and overpower this course, you’re going to find yourself in huge trouble.”
That’s exactly what happened to Els.
The course here is littered with dense bushes and a wayward drive can cause all sorts of trouble.
Playing the back nine first, Els started with two bogeys in the opening three holes before three birdies in a row put him back on track.
But the par-five 18th hole (his ninth) proved too challenging, even for a world number four.
His second shot went into the bushes and was unplayable for a penalty drop. He pitched straight back into undergrowth on his fourth for another dropped shot, before finally hitting the green and two putting for a nine.
Els bounced back with two consecutive birdies but the damage had been done and a bogey on his final hole rubbed salt into the wounds.
The South African made no comment after his round but knows he needs a low score on Friday to make the cut in only his second tournament of the year after capitulating to Woods in Dubai.
Kapur, who grew up playing at the Delhi Golf Club and holds the course record of 62, read the fairways and greens far better.
”I managed to pull a 68 out of nothing really,” said the Indian.
”It was one of those days of grinding it out and being patient and making things happen.” — AFP