Himmat Singh Rai, 24, uses the word “consistency” each time the conversation veers towards golf. On the eve of the Hero Indian Open golf that begins on Thursday, Rai projects a sense of calm which appears to be the result of years of dedicated training and yoga that he’s recently introduced in his training programme. The “consistency” was evident in his performance with back-to-back wins in professional golf tournaments in Singapore (ISPS Handa Classic; 8-11 September) and New Delhi (DLF Masters 2011; 28 September-1 October) recently.
In Singapore, he was tied with five other players at the end of the four customary rounds of play. The players walked towards the sixth play-off hole, the tension having risen with each hole that failed to pronounce a winner. As Rai approached the sixth play-off hole, he knew that if he conquered the 25-foot putt, the title would be his. Rai sank the putt, thus securing his maiden Asian Tour title since he turned professional in 2007.
Himmat Singh Rai. Photo by Priyanka Parashar/Mint
“I was pretty consistent in the tournaments that came before Singapore,” he says. “All the drastic changes I had made in my training methods after 2009 were at play during the Singapore win.”
The 2009 season saw him winning some tournaments in India, such as the PGTI Players Championship, apart from almost registering his first Asian Tour win when he ran South Korea’s K.J. Choi close for the top place at the Iskandar Johor Open in Malaysia. Going into 2010, Rai made a host of changes—he appointed a mind trainer, a new physical trainer and started practising yoga.
“All this work threw me off for a few months, and I lost the card for the 2010 Asian Tour,” he informs. “But I emerged even stronger from the qualifying school for the tour.” Rai shot 7 under par to finish fifth overall at the qualifying school and bag the card for the 2011 Asian Tour.
David Law, 20, who will be competing with Rai in the Hero Indian Open, will make his professional debut with this tournament. Hailing from Aberdeen, Scotland, Law’s sterling performances, both on the domestic amateur circuit and the few international tournaments he’s played in, have catapulted him to the ranks of the most promising talents from Scotland.
Law’s triumph at the Northern Open in Scotland in September, coming as it did after he was overlooked for the Walker Cup, is proof of this. The Walker Cup is contested by the best amateur players from the US, UK and Ireland, while the Northern Open features the top professional and amateur talent from across the Tartan Tour. His win also marked the first instance since 1970 of an amateur winning this professional tournament. Law is the youngest winner of the 78-year-old tournament.
Teeing off: David Law. Courtesy Asian Tour
Law took to golf at 13. He soon began competing in tournaments for boys, registering his first, and the one he deems his most memorable, victory at the Scottish Boys amateur tournament in 2009.
“I was only 18 at the time, and up until that victory I didn’t really realize how difficult things could be in competitive golf,” he says.
“The preparation before the tournament is the key,” says Rai. “The tournament week is auto pilot. Your mental routines follow through. If you’re trying to be in control of anything, it just means that you’re not playing at the highest level.”
Both aspire for the European Tour within the next few years. Law has been working on improving his short game as much as possible, well aware of the power of his drive. Having finished his amateur stint with a +3 handicap, his regular sessions with the Paul Lawrie Foundation in Aberdeen, which provides golf coaching to young players, are preparing him for the times ahead.
“To contain my nervousness, I decided to bring along my brother as caddie for this event,” Law says. “He is a golf coach back in Scotland and the bond that I share with him should help me during the Indian Open.”
Rai, meanwhile, simply wishes that he has all the shots to hold him in good stead during the tournament. “I just want to be up to the task physically and mentally during play. I’m sure I can perform consistently,” he concludes with his signature word.