ADITI ASHOK - With a gun on her head, Aditi Ashok unleashes a perfect seven-iron

Given the circumstances, the second shot that 19-year-old Aditi Ashok faced on the 18th hole of Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in the final round of the 2017 Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open was fraught with danger and required the most precise execution.

Seemingly cruising towards her third win on the Ladies European Tour (LET) with a round in which she barely made any mistakes, her four-shot lead over England’s Georgia Hall (who’d go on to win the RICOH Ladies British Open the following season) had unexpectedly whittled down to one on the 17th hole.

Putting is, without doubt, the cornerstone of Aditi’s game. I have always maintained that her pre-shot routine on the greens is possibly the best in the history of Indian golf (you read that right!), and her feel and read with the flat stick would be the envy of any professional golfer.

So, when she four-putted for a double bogey on the par-3 17th hole, it felt as if pressure had finally got to her. Hall, playing one group ahead, made a birdie and it was a three-shot swing.

The par-4 18th at the Gary Player-designed course is a demanding finishing hole, especially with the pin position that day – right above the water hazard, with the green sloping back towards it.

Aditi hit an excellent drive off the tee, leaving her exactly 150 yards to the pin from the centre of the fairway. But she was left with a difficult choice for her approach shot, with both her options extremely risky in case of slightest mishit.

Option 1: Carry the hazard and go for the flag. However, any excessive backspin ran the risk of the ball going into the water. Anything short was obviously dead.

Option 2: Go for the mound towards the left of the green. If hit perfectly, it would feed the ball towards the flag. Anything slightly long or left would leave her with a demanding up-and-down, or a devilishly-long putt across several postal codes.

Aditi watched Hall make a four on the 18th, and the task became clear – she needed to make at least a par to win. A brief consultation with father Ashok on the bag, and the decision was made. They would attack the flag from the left.

What followed was a seven-iron shot of magical precision and beauty. Even if she had a geometry box in her hand, Aditi would have struggled to draw a better shot-tracer. It started slightly left of the target and had just the perfect amount of fade to hit the bank of the slope exactly where it should and kicked towards the green, tracking all the way to the pin.

It finally ended up about five feet above the hole. Aditi missed the birdie putt, but a tap-in for par gave her a third win on the LET.

“It’s funny how when you don’t want something to happen, the Golfing Gods make it happen and you have to deal with it,” reminisced Aditi about her four-putt and the test she faced after that.

“But I hit the best seven-iron I could have hit, which was tough considering I had to aim away from the flag. It’s one of those shots when you have to be positive and commit to the target which isn’t the flag and let the green do the work.

“It was a dramatic finish for the television too, considering I was leading the event by more than one shot the whole day but eventually won by just one.”

By Joy Chakravarty (@TheJoyofGolf)

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