Anirban leads home hopes

Ryder Cup veteran Montgomerie spearheads European challenge

The Avantha Masters has come a month later than normally in its fourth edition. The weather, now sunny and hot, has added to the hopes of a number of home grown golfers who would be eager to make a mark in the €1.8million event that begins on Thursday at a new venue -- Jaypee Greens Golf course.

The 7,347-yard course, designed by Greg Norman, is one of the longest in the country and the home pros could rustle up some inspiring performances in familiar conditions.
Leading the home pack will be Anirban Lahiri, who is brimming with confidence after winning his third Asian Tour title at the SAIL-SBI Open on Sunday. The others in fray include experienced golfer Jeev Milkha Singh, who has announced himself “injury-free” along with Challenge Tour champions Gaganjeet Bhullar and Shiv Kapur and two-time European Tour champion SSP Chowrasia.

The tournament is predicted to be a low scoring affair because of the course conditions -- with the greens in good shape and rough not quite thick.

“I came here three weeks ago and since then the things have radically improved. The ball is rolling, the greens are lush and the weather conditions are different,” said Lahiri, who won the 2009 BILT Open, a PGTI event, here.

“Had it taken place, like always, in February, it would have suited the Europeans more. But the weather is hot and will be an advantage to the Indian golfers. I’m really glad I won last week as it has given me a great boost to the start of the year.

For Jeev, it will all come down to putting and one can witness a lot of birdies.

“The scoring will be low. I hope the wind blows and makes the conditions tougher,” Jeev said.

“I feel it will all come down to putting and how many birdies one can score. There are a lot of promising Indian players that have emerged and it will be a close tournament.”
Chowrasia, who is the only Indian to win the title in 2011, sounded confident ahead of the tournament. “I’ve played at Jaypee Greens many times, so I know what to expect. Playing in different conditions on different courses and against better players has definitely improved my game,” he said.

The Indians will be up against a strong field of six players with Ryder Cup pedigree comprising Scot Colin Montgomerie, Italian Edoardo Molinari, Ignacio Garrido of Spain, England's David Howell, Frenchman Thomas Levet and Welshman Philip Price. Among them, the six have amassed 31 points in the Ryder Cup, with Montgomerie contributing the most, 23.5, in eight appearances as a player.

Also making his debut will be Alvaro Quiros, who has six European Tour wins to his name apart from  defending champions Jbe Kruger and  and Andrew Dodt (2019).

The winner will also receive 20 world ranking points.

With a stellar field and conditions ideal for golfing, fans can look forward to some exciting stuff over the next four days.

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