Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Indians look to continue dominance at home Open


It’s that time of the year again when the spotlight of the golfing world is on India as the nation hosts the prestigious Indian Open, a US$ 1.75 million event, co-sanctioned by the European Tour and the Asian Tour.

The tournament has a new venue this year, the Gary Player-designed DLF Golf & Country Club in Gurgaon, and in addition the field will be headlined by international stars such as Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain, Australian Brett Rumford and Thai sensation Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

However, the home fans would expect the strong line-up of Indians in the field to keep the trophy at home for the third year running.

The mighty Indian challenge will be spearheaded by the country’s premier golfer and 2015 champion Anirban Lahiri who has recently shown signs of returning to his best having already accumulated four top-25 finishes in the current PGA Tour season.

Lahiri, the 2015 Asia No. 1, has slowly made his way up to 73rd in the world rankings in the last few weeks thanks to some creditable performances in the United States. He is now raring to have a shot at his second Indian Open title.

The title holder SSP Chawrasia also returns to defend his crown. The three-time European Tour winner is always a force to reckon with in home conditions as he has been champion at almost all the big international events staged in India in the last decade.

Chawrasia has the added advantage of good memories from his famous European Tour triumph (Avantha Masters) achieved at the DLF Golf & Country Club back in 2011. The Kolkata man enters the week with loads of confidence courtesy his two international victories from last year which also included a long-awaited first overseas success.

Gaganjeet Bhullar, another double international winner last year, will also be a name to watch out for. He will be itching to set the record straight by winning his first European or Asian Tour event on home turf.

Leading the youth brigade this time around will be 20-year-old Shubhankar Sharma who has been in sublime form with top-10s in his last three events on the Asian Tour. He is currently seventh on the money list in Asia and has been improving with each passing event. Shubhankar also enjoys the advantage of playing at his home course.

Rashid Khan, Chikkarangappa and Khalin Joshi will be the other youngsters to watch out.

Among the experienced pros, three-time Indian Open winner Jyoti Randhawa can never be written off at his favourite event especially if it happens to be at his home course. Jeev Milkha Singh, on the other hand, will be eager to finally break his jinx of winning in India.

Arjun Atwal and Shiv Kapur are the other established Indian names who will vie for the title. The seasoned Mukesh Kumar will also be a strong contender since he won the last international event held in India (Panasonic Open India) in December 2016.

C Muniyappa’s name is sure to attract a lot of attention as well as he happens to be the only Indian to have won his National Open at the DLF Golf & Country Club back in 2009.

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