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Smriti, Ankita, start heavy favourites

Bangalore, August 26, 2013, dhns: 2:40 IST
The resurgence of veteran Smriti Mehra, emergence of the unheralded Ankita Tiwana and the surprise return of Sharmila Nicollet has just made the script a lot more interesting in the ninth leg of the Hero Women’s Pro Golf Tour that is set to tee off at the pristine Clover Greens here on Tuesday.

Up until the eighth leg at the Karnataka Golf Association last week, all the talk was about the Neha Tripathi. The 21-year-old Kolkatan appeared to pick up from where she had left off when the season resumed following a four-month break, completing a superb hat-trick of wins two weeks ago at the Eagleton Golf Resort.

With Smriti struggling to adjust to her new clubs and rival Vani Kapoor battling for consistency, Neha made the best of her opponents’ travails to put herself in pole position at the start of the Bangalore swing which will climax this Thursday. However, the youngster last week was found wanting badly in her short game, a facet that is crucial for success at the short par-70 Clover Greens.

“Last week was a big lesson for me,” said Neha after Monday’s practice round. “It taught me that even when you’re in form you cannot take things lightly. My short game was bad last week. However, I’ve done my homework for Clover. My caddie and I have studied the course thoroughly and made some plans. Now, it’s all about executing it,” added the Order of Merit leader.

KGA also reminded everyone that one can never forget Smriti. The 41-year-old, who has played on the LPGA for 13 years, gave an ample demonstration of her never-say-die spirit, overturning a four-shot final-round deficit to eventually triumph by one shot.

Unlike the previous two events, Clover also boasts of a much stronger field. Apart from the return of India’s only LET card holder Sharmila, the 16 pros will be given a run for their money by none other than amateur Aditi Ashok.

The 15-year-old has already triumphed once on the Pro Tour and has sparkled everytime she has chosen to compete, hardly considering the opportunities as mere top-level practice.

Nothing much can be expected from Sharmila though as the 22-year-old is making a comeback after a toe and ankle injury. She is using this event as a test of her fitness before taking the plunge back to the European Tour.

Still searching for her maiden title this season, Vani is definitely one of the top contenders while Ankita, who is slowly coming into the groove, can be the surprise pick.

Conditions-wise, strong winds will have a big say at Clover and the one who masters them stands a good chance of emerging triumphant.

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