Teen Aditi Ashok rises to the occasion

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If there was tension in the air, Aditi Ashok didn't feel it. As she crouched over her short birdie putt on the final hole of the $400,000 Hero Women's Indian Open, there was hushed anticipation. Calm and collected, the teen turned queen with a confident stroke and she was enveloped by an eruption of celebrations. Minutes earlier, she had pulled her approach left but the lord of the greens proved benevolent as the ball hit the mound in front of the rear bunker and rolled back to four feet off the hole. It was just what the home crowd had wished for -an Indian winning the home Open, a Ladies European Tour event for the first time. Finally. It was also Mozo rising for some time. Spaniard Belen had given Aditi a run for her money -$60,000, to be precise -and was matching the Bengaluru teen on the back stretch of the Gary Player-designed DLF Golf & Country Club course. It was also an emotional ride for brother Jesus, who was on the bag for Aditi, but he was out to win this battle of the siblings.For Aditi, it was a tussle within herself. Her plan was to avoid dropped shots and make the most of the opportunities. But the chances came and went. "I left a lot of birdies out there. I was hoping I could make a few on the front because the back can be tough but I missed on both sides." `Never mind,' she must have shrugged it off. With critical pin positions, firmer fairways and the pressure of the final day, it was tough for everyone. She had to hang on, the three bogeys countered by three birdies. And in the end, an even par round for an aggregate of three under sealed the one-stroke victory. There were other challengers too. Thai Muangkhumsakul had briefly jumped into joint lead only to fade away with two bogeys on the final five. American LPGA star Brittany Lincicome had shown her pedigree with a rarity of a bogey-free three-under 69 round. Finishing on two-under, the two-time Major winner was waiting in the clubhouse hoping for a playoff as both Aditi and Belen slipped on the picturesque 17th, less treacherous this time but still claiming victims. "I've had a lot of good finishes at the Indian Open and to finally get the job done feels good, especially as an Indian player in front of my crowd," the champion said At 17, she had won the Ladies European Tour Q-School. This year, the self-assured teen impressed at the Olympics and then with four Top-4 finishes in the last five events, she was poised for a triumphant homecoming. Delighted that she had taken over the reins for the `Rookie of the Year' honour, her mind was already focusing on the task in future. "I have two more events to go in Qatar and Dubai, and the LPGA Final stage too," she reminded that the season was not over yet.

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