Chikka begins firm favourite

Golf : Joshi, Rashid set to offer strong challenge

Chikka begins firm  favourite

S Chikkaran-gappa, an Asian Tour card holder, returns to the development tour in a bid to successfully defend the TAKE Solutions India Masters crown that he won in stunning fashion last year.

Trailing fellow Eagleton Golf Resort -- where the event will be played for the second straight year -- Abhishek Jha by six shots at the start of the final round, the 22-year-old cashed in on his friend’s meltdown to card a sizzling five-under 67 and emerge champion.
The win, watched by his parents who live in the village nearby, acted as a catalyst for Chikkarangappa to take the next big step in his professional career. Having worked as a caddie at the very same course before making rapid strides as a junior and amateur golfer, the youngster went on to secure an Asian Tour card early this year and he has done reasonably well in his maiden stint.

He has taken a while to get acclimatised to the rigours of the Tour but recorded his first top-10 finish three weeks ago at the Yeangder TPC. With a gruelling season finale coming up where he will be competing seven weeks on a trot, Chikkarangappa felt this USD 120,000 ADT event acts as a perfect warm-up exercise.

“It was a memorable win for me last year as I was trailing by six shots heading into the final round. That win gave me a lot of confidence as I went on to secure my Asian Tour card. This is an important event. I'm getting comfortable playing on Asian Tour. It’s going to be a challenging week with so many good players in the field. I will try to stay calm and not get affected by the pressure of playing in front of my home crowd,” said Chikkarangappa.

While Chikkarangappa starts favourite at a course that he knows like the back of his hand, two pros who could potentially disrupt his homecoming plans are fellow Asian Tour compatriots Khalin Joshi and Rashid Khan. Joshi, Rashid and Chikkarangappa have waged several battles on the domestic junior and amateur circuit and this tournament could see them having another go at each other.

Some seasoned names like Rahil Gangjee, Digvijay Singh, Himmat Rai and Chiragh Kumar also feature in what promises to be an exciting field.

Internationally, ADT Order of Merit leader Casey O’Toole of the United States, Australian Jake Stirling, Thammanoon Sriroj of Thailand, James Byrne of Scotland and Japanese Masaru Takahashi, placed fifth on the Merit rankings, are the ones to watch out for.

Generally, the par-72 Eagleton with its wide fairways has been kind to the big hitters but the greenskeepers have apparently watered the greens to make it softer that could make putting a tricky affair.

The winner of this event, apart from pocketing USD 21,000, will receive six Official World Gold Ranking Points, which will spur them for glory.

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