When the most trusted weapon in your arsenal refuses to fire, the chances are that your entire defence is going to crumble. That’s exactly what has happened to Shiv Shankar Prasad Chawrasia’s golf game this year.
The 40-year-old, coming from a humble background in Kolkata, is one of India’s most successful players on the European Tour. By winning his second Hero Indian Open title last year, Chawrasia matched Jeev Milkha Singh’s record of four titles, but 2018 is proving to be difficult after missing 11 cuts in 15 starts.
There is nothing wrong with the way he is hitting the ball. But the man who was nicknamed ‘Chip-Putt Chawrasia’ for his magical short game, is struggling to make it count on the greens.
Putting has always been the cornerstone of Chawrasia’s game. Statistically the shortest hitter on the European Tour – he is averaging 267.5 yards off the tee in 2018, 272nd out of 276 players – but he fell to No 111 in average putts per greens in regulation at 1.773.
“I am not making enough putts (for birdies), and then I am compounding the problem by making simple mistakes on the greens,” Chawrasia, who is now ranked 367th in the world, told Firstpost.
“Once you are not able to putt well, you then start putting a lot of pressure on the other parts of your game. The frustration level also starts building up.
“I honestly feel that I am a much better player than what I was a few years ago. I am hitting the ball really well. I have no issues with my driver, woods or my irons. But if the putts don’t drop, you want to hit it closer to the pin. You start trying extra hard, which is the last thing you want to do in golf.”
The alarm bells have been ringing for Chawrasia for some time now, but it reached a crescendo last week at the Irish Open when he missed the cut by three shots after making five three-putts in his first two rounds.
“I was very unhappy after last week. I told myself that I need to fix this, and fix it as soon as possible,” said Chawrasia, winner of the 2016 Manila Masters on the Asian PGA Tour.
“I spent many hours at the putting green at Ballyliffin (the host venue of the Irish Open) after missing the cut, and I think I have figured something out. I hope I can now take this feeling out on the golf course when the Scottish Open starts (on Thursday).
“Part of the problem could be the fact that I have worked very hard to get my hitting sorted out these last couple of years and perhaps I have not paid as much attention to my short game as I should have. I was just telling my caddie that I need to spend more time on the putting green than at the driving range.
“I think what I need most is to play all four days of a tournament. That would raise my confidence level. Hopefully, I can start that process here this week. If I can go out and make a couple of good putts early on, I know I can turn things around pretty quickly.”
A self-taught player ever since he took up the game as a kid growing up inside the Royal Calcutta Golf Club where his father was part of the greenkeeping staff, Chawrasia said he has contemplated hiring a putting coach but is still not fully convinced about the idea.
“I have thought about it. But I am a stage of my career where I cannot afford to lose a couple of seasons because I am making some changes. More importantly, I still have full faith in my short game ability,” he added.
“I have reached out and taken advice from some of my fellow players. I have spoken to guys like Jeev (Milkha Singh) and Anirban (Lahiri). Sometimes, there are some very small mistakes that we make, but we need a third eye to catch that and point it to us. I think doing that has helped me so far in my career and unless and until I find a coach whom I can trust implicitly that he won’t alter what I have been doing completely, I am going to be on my own.”
Chawrasia has been paired with 2007 Masters champion Trevor Immelman of South Africa and Denmark’s Jeff Winther for the first two rounds. They tee off at 1220 local time (1750 IST) in Thursday’s first round.
The other Indian in the field is the 21-year-old rising star Shubhankar Sharma, who will be playing only his second tournament on a links course. The Chandigarh pro has an early start on Thursday, out at 0820 local time (1250 IST) alongside the reigning Hero Indian Open champion Matt Wallace and local hero Scott Jamieson.