New Delhi: The general feeling on the Asian Tour is that Indians are odds-on favourite when they play any international event at home. More so when it is at the Delhi Golf Club, famed for its narrow fairways and thick bushes. It is no different at the Panasonic Open India 2018, which gets underway on Thursday.
This time around, the greens are less than perfect, but the rough less and the Indians are rubbing their hands in glee as the 2018 edition approaches.
The event, held at the Delhi Golf Club since its inception, has been won by Indians six times in seven stagings. So, the Indians, 69 in the 126-man field, fancy their chances once again at the US$400,000 Panasonic Open India which starts on Thursday.
No player has won the Panasonic Open more than once since it was first held in 2011.
Leading the field is the defending champion Shiv Kapur and the field includes three other past champions Digvijay Singh (2012), Chiragh Kumar (2015) and Mukesh Kumar (2016).
Then there are youngsters like Aadil Bedi, Kshitij Naveed Kaul and Yuvraj Sandhu, who are turning pro this week at the Panasonic Open India. They follow in the footsteps of Viraj Madappa, who turned pro at the start of the year and won the Take Solutions Masters on the Asian Tour in his rookie year. Madappa became the youngest indian to win on the Asian Tour at just 20 in August.
Only two Indians have won an Asian Tour event in their Rookie Year on the Asian Tour – Shiv Kapur in 2005 and Rashid Khan in 2014.
Kapur, who says he keeps replaying in his mind the images of him holding the Trophy at his home club and then having his then two-month old daughter sitting in it. “It was one of the best moments of my career and this is where I have played most of my golf. Winning here was a dream come true and winning a second time and becoming the first player to become a repeat winner in Panasonic Open India would indeed be an icing on the cake.”
Kapur also won the Panasonic Swing last year – which is an aggregate points race that spans five events – in Thailand, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan.
The field also features India’s legends like Jeev Milkha Singh, Jyoti Randhawa, Mukesh Kumar, Feroz Ali and others.
Jeev added, “I have seen many of these youngsters in action and they are fearless. Indian golf with a strong domestic Tour is doing great.”
Feroz added, “It is great to see the new crop come up.”
Mukesh, winner in 2016, said, “I predict another Indian winner. We are used to this club and we have great experience here.”
Viraj Madappa, winner of Take Solutions Masters in his Rookie Year, accompanied by coach, Tarun Serdesai, is full of confidence. “I am playing well and have had some good results. Also, I have been coming to DGC since my amateur days and I love this club.”
Leading the international challenge will be the in-form Thailand's Tirawat Kaewsiribandit, who has won his last two starts – first at the Asian Tour event in Pakistan and then in a domestic event in Thailand. Tirawat, who turned 29 today, is now looking at a hat-trick of titles to celebrate this golden period.
Apart from Tirawat, there is his compatriot Jazz Janewattananond, 22, a two-times Asian Tour winner, and Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh, who has finished in the Top-10 at Delhi Golf Club in at least 10 Asian Tour events over the last decade. He also won the Hero Indian Open in 2013.
In 2016, Jazz was contending for the title after two days before dropping to T-30 as the event was cut short to 54 holes because of inclement weather.
Siddikur, currently 97th on the Money List, is looking for a good result at his favourite venye to break into top-60 by the end of the season to keep his Asian Tour card for 2019.
He said, “I have been coming to play here since I was an amateur. I also won here as an amateur back in 2004. It’s slightly similar to my home course Kurmitola Golf Club, just that my home course has less bushes. This week is important for me. I have been struggling a bit with my back injury. It’s (the injury) been about four to five years now. It comes and goes.”
Sandhu was one of the seven players, who Tied for second behind winner, Kapur last year, hopes to go one better this time.
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: Oct 24, 2018 21:06:05 IST