Focus on Sharma, Lahiri

Focus on Sharma, Lahiri

high hopes Anirban Lahiri will be a strong favourite to win the Indian Open title. AFP

The DLF Golf and Country Club is a daunting course. Designed by Gary Player, it often takes the centre stage with its undulating greens and fairways and remarkable hazards. When the Hero Indian Open 2019 tees off on Thursday, the quality field, which includes a bunch of promising Indians, will be eager to tame the challenging conditions and facility.

In 2018, only 15 players finished the event under par, and in 2017 a mere seven players could do that in the US$1.75 million tournament. The field of 144 includes players from 28 nations. There are 37 Indians in the fray, led by Shubhankar Sharma and 2015 champion Anirban Lahiri, not to forget the seasoned SSP Chawrasia, who won this tournament in 2016 and 2017 before the Indian domination was broken by Englishman Matt Wallace last year.

Shubhankar, who fired a course record of 64 in the second round last year, said he was more relaxed and matured this time around. “The course is playing much better than last year. Most of the players I’ve spoken to have been happy with how the course is. I am obviously a lot more mature this year and really enjoying my game,” said Sharma who had come close to the title in a sensational 2018 before errors derailed his march.

“It would mean the world to me (to win), the Indian open is very special to us Indians, especially to win on a course that has supported me in my career.”

Lahiri, a regular on the PGA Tour, where he has made five cuts in his last seven starts this season, hoped to pull together his game this week. He has had a stellar record in the tournament with six top-five positions in his last nine appearances.

“My game has been a bit inconsistent but it is moving in the right direction. I’ve had a couple of bad weekends, but I have managed to single out the problems which need to be fixed,” said Lahiri, who flew in from Florida.

Shiv Kapur, Rahil Gangjee, Ajeetesh Sandhu, Khalin Joshi and Chikkarangappa are among other Indians in fray.

The foreign challenge will be spearheaded by reigning Scottish Open Brandon Stone and Scott Hend, who is coming on the back of a thrilling win at last week’s Maybank Championship, and four-time European Tour winner Bernd Wiesberg.

Hend was clear he would go with a defensive mindset. “It is a tournament I haven’t figured out yet how to play,” he said.

It will be a challenge for many when they begin their opening round at the picturesque but demanding course.

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