Former champions Anirban Lahiri and Shiv Chawrasia along with the 2018 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner Shubhankar Sharma go into the 55th Indian Open, starting in Gurgaon on Thursday, as the leading home contenders.
When it comes to international golf events, Indians are always considered the toughest to beat on home soil. Although none of the four players who are in world’s Top-100 list are Indians, it is the country’s golfers who would start as favourites at the USD 1.75 million event.
Indian golfers have always been the ones to watch out for at the tournament. Whether it is experienced stars like Lahiri or Chawrasia or even Mukesh Kumar, who plays mostly in India, or youngsters like Khalin Joshi and Viraj Madappa.
The field of 156 this time has four players inside Top-100 – Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand (No. 71), Adrian Otaegui (No. 73), Shaun Norris (No. 90) and Jorge Campillo (No. 93).
The field also boosts of some very prominent winners this season like Jazz (Singapore Open), David Law (Vic Open), Aaron Rai (Hong Kong Open) and Scott Hend (Maybank Malaysian Championships), besides some others such as the 2018 Scottish Open winner Brandon Stone, long-hitting Bernd Wiesberger, four-time European Tour winner, and Gavin Green, a former Asian Tour No 1.
The depth in the field that includes a dozen stars with a world ranking between 100 and 150 is expected to spice up the competition here at the DLF Golf and Country Club.
Between them, Lahiri, India’s only representative on the flagship PGA Tour, and Chawrasia – they have won the National Open three times 2015 and 2017 and both will be keen to put their best foot forward.
Lahiri is here on the back of a solid performance last week at the Valspar Championship in Florida, where his last round 68 was equal best score on a windy and tough Sunday.
Shubhankar was seventh here last year after going into Sunday with the lead.
Hend, who broke a near three-year drought with the Maybank title last week will also be competing here. And so is last year’s other top-three finisher Sihwan Kim of the USA and Maybank Runner-up Nacho Elvira of Spain.
Both Lahiri and Shubhankar feel that “the course is playing much better than last year”.
Lahiri added: “It looks immaculate. This course is probably in the best shape that any of us has seen so far. It seems to be the most playable compared to all the other years we’ve played.
“The greens are definitely a lot softer and the grass has settled down. In the sense of what to expect this week, it will be a great golf course. We’ll see how it goes because it really changes depending on if the tees are pushed back or pushed forward. That’s a big factor here.”
Lahiri sounded upbeat about his chances this week. “I love playing the Indian Open. It’s my fifth major. I have happy memories, having played well in this tournament for a number of years.
“From what I saw during the Pro-Am this morning, green speed is the one thing I need to get used to quickly. I kept coming up short today and need to recalibrate my putting speed. That’s about the only adjustment I think is needed.”
Shubhankar said familiarity with the course will be a big plus for him. “I am obviously a lot more mature this year and really enjoying my game. I just want to get back into the groove again of playing at my best again.
“This was my home course for the longest time and it feels great to be back on familiar ground,” the 22-year-old said.