The news here in Carnoustie that the Indian domestic professional golf tour will now be eligible for the official world ranking points has been received with as much delight and optimism as that of young Shubhankar Sharma making the cut in the ongoing Open Championship.
It really is a validation of the rapid strides made by Indian golf in the recent past, as well as the efforts of the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI). The Tour, which has 260 active members, hosted 21 tournaments in 2017 and offered a total prize purse of Rs 10.5 crore.
On Tuesday, the Official World Golf Ranking board ratified the decision on the PGTI Tour in its meeting here, as well as approving points for the All Thailand Golf Tour and Japan’s Abema Tour.
Starting January 2019, winners of each event on the PGTI Tour will get five points. The runner-up and anyone inside the top-five will also earn points.
The world ranking points are awarded to Tours that are recognised by the International Golf Federation and adhere to certain mandatory requirements — one of them being that the membership will have to be open to any player from any part of the world. That was the main stumbling block for the PGTI for many years.
In 2017, the PGTI changed its policy and held the Qualifying School tournament where any player could have taken part. There were a few members of the PGTI who were opposed to such a move, but over a period of time, they have realised the importance of earning world ranking points.
To begin with, the Official World Golf Ranking has become a litmus test for how good a player is. Being the World No 1 is the aspiration for any player who takes up the sport.
However, what’s more important is the fact that higher world ranking leads to several perks — like automatic entry into tournaments. Being inside the top-50 gets a player into every major championship, while everyone inside the top-100 get into the PGA Championship. It is also the only yardstick that can get a golfer into the Olympics, and that is significant in a country like India where many sports are funded only on the basis of participation in the quadrennial games.
Anirban Lahiri, who recently dropped out of the world top-100 and hence might not be able to get into the PGA Championship, summed up the feeling of the Indian players.
“That’s huge. It’s unbelievable what that's going to do. We’re suddenly going to have another 20 guys in the top-300, I think,” said Lahiri, who has in the past risen to No 33 in the world, the second best by an Indian after Jeev Milkha Singh, who peaked at No 28 in March 2008.
“It's going to be a huge thing. It’s very, very good for the PGTI because now they have a huge value to add to their events as far as sponsors are concerned. Even in terms of players, the field in any given tournament would be far better because there will be more competition with quality players from other countries.
“I think the PGTI will also have to raise their game a little bit with the quality of courses and the way they run the event. But that’s huge. I think that's something that Indian golf needed. I think the PGTI has done well to earn that honour.”
Uttam Singh Mundy, the CEO of PGTI, said: “This is a very significant development for Indian professional golf. We have worked very hard on this for the past 18 months or two years, and we are extremely happy to have received the support of all the major tours in the world.
“I have to thank the Asian Tour for proposing our name and helping us through the entire process. This is not just good for our playing members, but also gives a very valid reason for the sponsors to come forward and develop the game.”
At present, there are three Indians — Shubhankar (87), Lahiri (104) and Gaganjeet Bhullar (157) — in the top-200 of the world rankings while 15 are inside the top-1000. The five points earned by any lower-ranked players to break into the world top-1000.
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Updated Date: Jul 21, 2018 09:11:43 IST