Lahiri all set for home challenge

Lahiri all set for home challenge

Golf Indian Open: Spanish star Jimenez, Jeev Milkha Singh top challengers

Lahiri all set for home challenge

 These are good days for golf in India. The country, still celebrating the success of Anirban Lahiri on the European Tour, will now look forward to the 51st edition of Hero Indian Open, beginning on Thursday, with a fresh sense of optimism.

The tournament, hosted by the pristine Delhi Golf Course (DGC), is be co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours for the first time and offers enhanced prize money of USD 1.5 million.

The DGC has been a happy hunting ground for the Indians who would love to assert themselves in a star-laden field. The narrow course here requires patience and accuracy off the tee, something which they are well versed with.

 Since 1998, five Indians have tasted success at this venue, with Jyoti Randhawa enjoying a hat-trick of triumphs at the Indian Open, including back-to-back wins in 2006 and 2007. Lahiri, the man of the moment, won the first of his three Asian Tour events here, Rashid Khan’s debut win came at the SAIL-SBI Open last year while Arjun Atwal also won the Hero Masters here in 2000.

Most Indians have had the experience of playing on both Asian and European tours and were unequivocal in stating their desire to win the national open. Lahiri, after notching up the biggest victory in his career at Malaysia, is the highest ranked player (39th) in the formidable field. He alongwith SSP Chawrasia had finished runner-up in the last edition.

 “This is the event you want to win as an Indian. We have four Asian Tour members winning the last four co-sanctioned events. It will be nice to continue that streak,” the 27-year-old said.

 Challenging him will be defending champion Siddikur Rahman and prize catch of the tournament Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is fresh from a good outing in Thailand and will be looking to win his 22nd title on the European Tour. Apart from him, Scott Hend, a six-time Asian Tour winner, Thaworn Wiratchant, Jeev Milkha Singh and Marcus Fraser are the prominent names featuring in the event.

An injury-free Jeev, who has four European Tour wins, was eager to win his maiden Indian Open. “I have come so close to winning the Indian Open. I have won the national Open of many other countries like Scotland, Singapore, China and Austria, but it is the Indian Open I want most,” he said.

“I am hitting as well as I did when I was in my 30s. Indians will play very well this week.”
Since last year, the course has undergone a par change, from 72 to 71 and Jeev felt the 14th hole would pose problems for the golfers as it was no longer par-5. "A lot of golfers will drop bogeys on the 14th. Even 7th won't be easy," said the 44-year-old, who last played here in the 2012 Panasonic Open.

With the leading lights on the European and Asian circuit keen to give their best, the coming four days will have riveting golfing action in store.

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