Indian golfer Jyoti Randhawa will make his 300th appearance on the Asian Tour when he tees off at the USD 400,000 Panasonic Open India in Gurugram on Thursday.
Randhawa, who turned professional in 1994, has since gone on to win eight titles on the Asian Tour including five at home.
“It doesn’t seem that long. I remember my first tournament and 300 feels a long time. I’m just feeling great and having played so many events, it’s surprising to me also. I didn’t realize it,” Randhawa said on the eve of the tournament.
The 47-year-old said spoke fondly about his wins at home.
“The highlights? Winning the Indian Opens was good, because you know, you’re a local boy and you are able to win in your own country. I won three of them actually. First one was special, this golf course it was. Then after it was Singapore, Japan, Thailand. So yeah, it’s been a long, long time,” he said.
One of Randhawa’s finest season came in 2002 when he topped the Asian Tour Order of Merit to be crowned Asia’s number one then.
“The best years on the Asian Tour was when I won the Order of Merit in 2002, and also in 2000. I won two events, I won both the Singapore Open and the Indian Open in 2000 and then I won the Order of Merit in 2002, I think if I’m not off. Yeah, those were the good years. I have a lot of good memories.”
While Randhawa’s last Asian Tour victory dates back almost a decade ago, the 47-year-old is still feeling the fire in his belly and holds the belief that he can return to the winner’s circle again.
“This week I just need to hit it long and putt straight. This is what this golf course needs. So, hit as far as you can and make those putts,” the golfer said.
The last four winners including defending champion Khalin Joshi are in the field of 126 players at the Panasonic Open India, starting on Thursday. The tournament, which ventures out of the Delhi Golf Club for the first time, carries a purse of $400,000 and provides a great platform for home stars to make a breakthrough at the Asian Tour level.
Six of the eight past champions had Panasonic Open India as their maiden wins, the only exception being SSP Chawrasia in 2014 and Shiv Kapur in 2017.
The six players who made the event their first wins include Anirban Lahiri (2011); Digvijay Singh (2012); Wade Ormsby (2013), also the only non-Indian to have won the event; Chiragh Kumar (2015); Mukesh Kumar (2016) and Khalin Joshi (2018).
Interestingly no player has won the tournament more than once, so as many as five players in this field will be looking at becoming the first repeat winner.
One of the highlights of the event will be the coming together of the Big Three’ of Indian golf Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal and Randhawa, who between the three of them have done great service to the sport in the country and the region.
Bhullar eyes history
Another one looking for a landmark is Gaganjeet Bhullar, already the highest winner of Asian Tour titles at nine. He will attempt to become the first Indian to get into double digits.
When asked about him still looking for his first win at home, he said, “Thanks for reminding me of that. I’ve never won so far in India and last year was really good when I got my first European Tour win in Fiji.”
Shiv Kapur, who won three events in 2017, Panasonic Open India being one of them, returned to form last week in Thailand, where he lost in a play-off.
Viraj Madappa, who broke through last year on Asian Tour and Ajeetesh Sandhu, who won in Taiwan in 2017 and has had a decent season, will also be among the players looking to add to their successes.
Youngsters like S Chikkarangappa, Aadil Bedi, Kshitij Naveed Kaul, Priyansh Singh and Abhijit Chadha among others are all searching for their maiden win on Asian Tour and this could be their week.
Bangladeshi Siddikur Rahman, who has finished runner-up on three occasions at the Panasonic Open India, remains ever hopeful of making it count at the Classic Golf and Country Club this week.
His last Asian Tour win came in India at the Hero Indian Open in 2013, though he won an Asian Development Tour event in Dhaka last year.
Argentina’s Miguel Carballo will be seeking his second win of the season following his breakthrough in Indonesia in September.
Ridhima, Diksha in the lead
Ridhima Dilawari birdied the last hole to grab a share of the lead with Diksha Dagar after round one of the 15th leg of Hero WPGT in Kolkata on Wednesday.
Dilawari, who is looking for her fifth title of the season, and Dagar carded one-under 71 each.
Dagar, the only Indian to have won on the Ladies European Tour this year, was four-under for the front nine with birdies in first, fourth, fifth and ninth, but then dropped three shots on the back nine to fall to 71.
Dilawari had a roller coaster of a round with a birdie for starters and added two more on fourth and fifth but dropped shots on third and sixth and yet another on ninth to turn in even par 36.
She bogeyed the 10th but birdies on 12th and 15th brought her back to red numbers. Yet again she dropped a shot on 17th only to get it back on the 18th.
Thailand’s P Supakchaya had two bogeys and a birdie in between in the first three holes, and then parred the remaining 15 holes for 73 and was lying third, while Vani Kapoor and Siddhi Kapoor shot 74 each to be tied-fourth.
Three players including amateur Pranavi Urs with Amandeep Drall and Khushi Khanijau carded 75 each in tied-sixth place, while Neha Tripathi and a disappointed Tvesa Malik rounded off the Top-10 with 76 each.