India's Aditi Ashok tees it up at this week’s Dubai Moonlight Classic presented by EGA looking to land a fourth Ladies European Tour victory.
A winner of the 2017 Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open in Abu Dhabi, Ashok also narrowly missed out on a medal at this summer’s Olympics, finishing fourth in Tokyo.
She begins her bid for the title at Emirates Golf Club on Wednesday looking to improve still on last year’s tied-sixth finish, where she came home only two shots behind eventual winner Minjee Lee.
The National caught up with Ashok, 23, ahead of the day-night event.
How much are you looking forward to the Dubai Moonlight Classic?
“I am looking forward to it because I enjoy playing in Dubai. I had a great week last year and played better each day, so I hope that continues into this year too.”
How does this event challenge you differently to other tournaments?
“It’s an interesting format and it makes you think a lot more because you can’t see the holes as easily [at night]. I think the key for me is to know the lines I want to take off the tee because that’s the hard part while playing under the lights. You have to commit to the lines off the tee and you have to trust your green-reading skills, too, since it’s not as easy to read greens under the lights.”
What are your memories from the tournament last year?
“I remember that last round where I shot 64. I hit a lot of good shots and holed a lot of putts, which was fun. That was the best round of 2020 for me so I’m excited to be back playing at a course where I’ve shot such a low round. Off the course, I guess I remember trying out a lot of different Indian food since Dubai has so many Indian food places.”
Two of your three LET wins have come in the Middle East – what is it about this region that brings out the best in you?
“I enjoy playing desert golf. I don’t mind the hot weather either so that helps too. The courses I’ve had the chance to play have also been some of the best in the Middle East and it’s fun to play on such well-designed courses.”
What would it mean to do a 'UAE double' and win in Dubai?
“Yes, I played great in Abu Dhabi and hit the ball solid all four days [to win the 2017 Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open]. So I hope I can do the same this year and put three good rounds together. Obviously winning means a lot, but yes winning in Dubai, when I’ve come so close (three top-6 finishes) would mean a lot.”
How would you evaluate your season so far?
“It’s been a long year and I feel I have played great even though I’ve lost some distance off the tee. Obviously, the Olympics was a great week for me performance-wise and I had a top 10 on the LPGA last month, so I feel I have been playing good and just have to keep sticking to my game plan.”
How have you found the transition to competing on the LPGA Tour?
“It’s been an adjustment for sure. The competition is a lot more as you’re playing with 100+ of the best women golfers in the world every week. The courses on the LPGA are a lot longer and the greens are usually faster. It’s a lot more travel and tournaments compared to my rookie season on the LET. The main focus for me was trying to find a balance between playing tournaments and taking weeks off so that I can stay at the same level physically and not lose strength as I play week after week. Also, I play on both LET and LPGA so I try to incorporate LET events in my schedule too, which can get difficult physically. But I think I have managed myself well, gained a lot of experience and learnt about what works for me and what makes me perform at my best.”
How was the whole experience of the Olympics?
“I think my performance definitely propelled the much-needed exposure to golf, especially to the masses in India. It was great for me to represent women’s golf and have such a good finish. I hope it boosts the popularity of the sport and encourages youngsters to take up the game now that more people are aware of golf in India. And I also hope to see an increase in support towards golf and that people will look at it as a medal sport too.”
How would a strong display in Dubai set you up for the rest of the season?
“It would be great to have a good week in Dubai. Playing well always gives me the most confidence so that’s what I’m focusing on. I’m looking forward to the last few events of 2021 and hope I can put myself in contention every week that I get to play.”