Chawrasia eyes a repeat show on home turf


SSP Chawrasia, carrying the national flag, had created an enduring memory of his maiden victory in Hero Indian Open last year. The defending champion, with a host of compatriots, is now eager to keep the title at home when the event tees off at the challenging DLF Golf and Country Club on Thursday.

The Gary Player designed course, that had previously held the 2015 Hero Women’s Indian Open, is known for its tricky greens and fairways, and demands accuracy. This is the first time it is hosting the men’s event, which boasts of an increased prize money of USD 1.75 million, after being centered at the Delhi Golf Club for some time.

Chawrasia, who had faced a heartbreaking defeat in the play-off to Anirban Lahiri in 2015, had put up a gutsy performance to pip his compatriot and Jeunghun Wang for his third European Tour title last year. Chawrasia and Lahiri have fought some intriguing battles and they continue to be the favourites this year as well.

Chawrasia would be looking to become the first Indian since Jyoti Randhawa (2006 & 2007) to win back to back editions of Indian Open. World No 73 Lahiri is now a regular on the PGA Tour and is eyeing qualification to the WGC-Dell Match Play in two weeks’ and later Masters at Augusta Nationals. A strong finish here would act a the perfect catalyst to his quest.

The competitive field would add to the odds. World No 21 Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain is the highest ranked player and is joined by in-form Australians Scott Hend, the reigning Asian Tour number one, and Brett Rumford, who claimed his sixth European Tour title with a superb win at the inaugural ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth in February, alongside former champions Siddikur Rahman (2013), Thaworn Wiratchant (2012) and David Gleeson (2011).

The course, with its dreaded 17th and 18th holes, would push the golfers, most of whom would be playing here for the first time.

The opening holes are dominated by water and include an island green on the par-three fifth hole. The back nine is built around a quarry and a large lake with massive rock formations.

“You have to place the ball at the right spots. This is a tough course. I don’t think there’s home advantage as it’s a new course for most of us,” Chawrasia said. “2016 was best year of my career. I’m trying to do better in 2017. Hopefully I can carry the trophy again.”

Leading the young Indians would be the 20-year-old Shubhankar Sharma who has notched top-10 finishes in his last three events on the Asian Tour. Rashid Khan, S Chikkarangappa and Khalin Joshi will be the other youngsters to watch out for. Among the experienced, three-time winner Randhawa and Jeev Milkha Singh would be looking to make an impact.

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