Indians look to keep the trophy at home

Indians look to keep the trophy at home

Indians look to keep the trophy at home

Indian golfers will be eager to keep the Panasonic India Open trophy at home when it kicks off at the picturesque Delhi Golf Club  on Thursday.

In six editions, five Indians have claimed the trophy with Mukesh Kumar turning back the clock last year to become the oldest winner on the Asian Tour. Kumar would be hoping to pose a strong defence when he returns for the US$400,000 full-field Asian Tour event.

Kumar will lead the 126-man field alongside countrymen Shiv Kapur, Ajeetesh Sandhu and Gaganjeet Bhullar, who have all won on the Asian Tour this season, as well as debutant Paul Peterson of the United States, a one-time winner on the European Tour.

Also in the fray are Thaworn Wiratchant of  Thailand, who holds an unprecedented 18 wins on the region's premier Tour, S.S.P. Chawrasia, highest-ranked Asian Tour player in fourth place on the Merit rankings,  Malaysia's Nicholas Fung and Thai Rattanon Wannasrichan.

A lot of focus will be on Sandhu who has experienced his best season on Asian tour so far. The 29-year-old claimed his breakthrough win in Chinese Taipei earlier this month before going on to win on the Japan Challenge Tour the week after. He followed up his back-to-back wins with a tied-second finish in  Macao  a fortnight ago.

"In golf it is just a matter of getting comfortable with your own game, to understand your strengths and your weaknesses. I think I'm just maturing as a person and as a golfer, and that's been probably the key to my form of late," said Sandhu, who  turned professional in 2008 and is placed 23rd on the Order of Merit.

"I have learnt a lot from seniors. For instance, when I practice in Chandigarh, I play often with Jeev (Milkha Singh) and it is always great to learn from him. He has pretty much been everywhere."

Kumar, on the other hand, was confident of retaining his title. "I was really elated and very happy to win the Panasonic Open India last year. It felt really special and I couldn't believe it myself. I had waited a long time for this. This time also my game is shaping up well. I need to work on my putting and my aim would be retaining my trophy," said Kumar who had led from start to finish at last year's tournament, which was reduced to 54 holes due to fog disruptions.

"Playing at the Delhi Golf Club requires a lot of planning. You have to plan your shots on this course.

The event, which also forms part of the unique Panasonic Swing, is sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI).