RASHID KHAN - A faltering club, a sense of déjà vu and a hero shot from Rashid Khan

For the second time in two years, Rashid Khan found himself involved in a play-off for the SAIL-SBI Open when it was held at the Delhi Golf Club in 2014. The year before, the precociously talented Indian had lost to compatriot Anirban Lahiri on the first extra hole.

One year later, Khan made a blistering start to the tournament, starting fast off the blocks with a stunning bogey-free 11-under par 61. He followed that up with two 69s and come Sunday, was leading by two shots over Bangladesh’s Siddikur Rahman (67, 67, 67).

That cushion was cruelly snatched from him on the very first hole. From the middle of the par-5 fairway, looking at perfect yardage for his three-wood, Khan nearly shanked his second shot and needed to scramble for a par.

“Those who know my golf, know that I have absolutely no problems in changing my clubs in the middle of the tournament. I have always done that, and I continue to do that. For the final round, I had picked up a different three-wood than the one I had used the first three days. It was a horrible shot and the lead was gone very early as Siddikur made an eagle,” recollects Khan.

Khan did not hit the three-wood for the remainder of his round, and it needed two back-to-back brave birdies on the 17th (a peach of a 8-iron shot to one feet) and 18th holes to finally catch up with Siddikur and force a play-off.

The DGC that year was playing a lot softer. Khan, well known for his aggressive approach on the golf course, took out the club most players refrain from off the tee – the driver – and smashed it down the fairway. When he reached his ball, he had 260 yards to a back-left pin, a distance that had three-wood written all over it.

“That was one of the rare occasions when I actually felt scared on a golf course. A three-wood would have been perfect, but after what happened on the first hole, I felt very reluctant to use it,” said Khan, known for his fearless approach to golf.

“I was not only thinking of the morning three-wood, but was also reminded of another situation. Against Anirban the year before, the golf course was very dry and after teeing off with a 3-iron, I was left with a similar distance. That day, much against my own thinking, I tried to play safe with a rescue. I could not reach the green and missed my up-and-down from the left rough, while Anirban made his from a similar spot. I really should have used my three-wood that day.”

Khan took a bit of time and finally decided that it would be a three-wood. His then caddie, Montu, asked him twice if he thought he was doing the right thing and urged the use of the rescue. His thinking was probably that Siddikur was not among the longest hitters on the Asian Tour and had already laid up.

But Khan had made his decision and picked up a weapon that had already betrayed him once.

Not this time, though.

“I told Montu this was the only club I had. I should have hit a three-wood last year and I did not. I am going to hit it this time, whatever happens,” Khan said.

“I just wanted to hit a low draw. I wasn’t bothered how far I carried the ball. As long as I could hit a low draw, it did not matter if the ball pitched at 200 yards and was well short of the green.

“The moment I hit that shot, I knew I had hit a good one. It had a draw of about a couple of yards, pitched short of the green and rolled all the way to the back, leaving me with a 20-feet putt for eagle. Siddikur was about 15 feet from the pin after his third. I made an easy two-putt for birdie and he missed his birdie attempt.

“Obviously, I was overjoyed with my first win on the Asian Tour and the huge part played by that shot in it. But what pleased me most about that shot was how I trusted and backed myself in that situation. That’s why that shot has remained etched in my memory.”

By Joy Chakravarty (@TheJoyofGolf)

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