Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjørn and English sensation Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston will make their debuts at the US$ 1.75 million Hero Indian Open to be held from March 8 to 11 this month.
The only European Tour event in the country is likely to have the strongest-ever field with PGA Tour winner and Presidents Cup player Emiliano Grillo from Argentina confirming his participation.
The 54th edition of the tournament is also likely to see a solid Indian line-up including the likes of home favourite Shubhankar Sharma, PGA Tour regular Anirban Lahiri, defending champion SSP Chawrasia and stalwarts Jeev Milkha Singh, Jyoti Randhawa and Arjun Atwal among others.
The Asian Tour co-sanctioned event will make a return to the challenging Gary Player layout of the DLF Golf & Country Club in Gurgaon for second year in a row.
Bjørn, who has 21 wins worldwide including 15 on European Tour, led a strong European team last month to a fine win over Asia in the EurAsia Cup in Malaysia.
The highest-ranked Indian player in the tournament is Shubhankar Sharma, who with two European Tour wins in less than two months, has broken into the top-100. Being a DLF Golf & Country Club member, fans will have high expectations from the Panchkula-based pro.
“I am very happy that the Hero Indian Open is happening at my home club DLF Golf & Country Club. DLF have been supporting me for the last 5 years. We had a great winner in SSP Chawrasia last year and I really hope we can have another Indian winner this time too. Best of luck to all participants,” Sharma said.
Two-time Asian Tour No. 1, Jeev Milkha Singh, felt good distance control will be the key at the demanding 7,657-yard layout.
“I am very excited to be playing my national open, the Hero Indian Open, at the DLF Golf & Country Club. It is a demanding golf course. You need to have good distance control and mental strength to win a tournament there. I would like to thank Mr. Pawan Munjal for sponsoring the event and making the game grow in the country. I will like to wish all my fellow competitors the best, enjoy the week,” Jeev said in a video interview.
Shiv Kapur, who has been in the form of his life pocketing 3 international crowns in 2017, expects another Indian victory at the European Tour event.
“It’s great to have a strong Indian participation in the event with most golfers in form. 2017 was a great season having so many Indians win. Coming to the Indian Open, expecting an Indian winner again. We are at a golden period for Indian golf, where Indians are either the favourites or underdogs, that is a fantastic feeling,” Kapur said.
World No. 78 Lahiri will try to reclaim the Hero Indian Open trophy that he won in 2015.
The tournament will also see seasoned pros Mukesh Kumar, Chiragh Kumar, Gaganjeet Bhullar trying their best to take advantage of home conditions.
Chawrasia will be attempting the first ever hat-trick of wins in the 54-year long history of the tournament. Chawrasia had finished runner-up at the Hero Indian Open on 4 occasions – in 1999, 2006, 2013 and 2015 – before pipping countryman Anirban Lahiri and Korea’s Jeunghun Wang to take the coveted title for the first time in 2016. He successfully retained his title last year to register his fourth European Tour win.
Past champion Thongchai Jaidee and Ryder Cupper Chris Wood, who won the 2016 BMW PGA Championships, are also in the field.
(Read more in the March issue of Golf Digest India. Download here.)