All eyes on Aditi as Hero Women’s Indian Open begins

Brimming with confidence after claiming her third title on the Ladies European Tour last week, defending champion Aditi Ashok will now look to retain the Hero Women’s Indian Open which tees off at the DLF Golf course here on Thursday.

Aditi Ashok, who had won the Hero Indian Open and Qatar Ladies Open last year, clinched the Fatima Bin Mubarak Ladies Open in Abu Dhabi last week but the 19-year-old from Bangalore will have to fight her way through one of the strongest fields comprising 114 players from over 25 countries.   -  AFP

Aditi Ashok held the spotlight among a select set of competitors ahead of the $ 4,00,00-rich Hero Women's Indian Open which begins at the DLF Golf Club here from Friday.

Aditi will be defending the title in a field of 114 players from 25 countries.

READ: Aditi wins in Abu Dhabi for her third LET title

Even as concerns regarding the heavy smog that has engulfed the National Capital Region (NCR) grew, the ladies looked forward to a “challenging” tournament, now in its 11th edition. The field includes 17 Indians apart from four of the Top-5 golfers who figured in the Ladies European Tour's 2016 Order of Merit

“Focus would be on where to hit the ball. Hope we can see a clear weather from Friday,” commented Carlota Ciganda, ranked World No 20, as she hinted at playing with a mask.

Aditi, fresh from her Fatima Bin Mubarak Ladies Open in Abu Dhabi last week, belied her age of 19 when dealing with some tricky questions. “I don't avoid media but it's just that I have been busy travelling. I'm always available for comments,” she assured. “I play golf because I enjoy it. Money is always secondary to me. People assume that I like this golf course and I do, but it’s not that easy and my chances are the same as everyone else’s.”

READ: Aditi Ashok second in Abu Dhabi

Knowing the course does help the golfer and Gaurika Bishnoi, leader on Hero Order of Merit on domestic Tour endorsed Aditi's view. “It helps if you have local knowledge. I have an edge because I have been playing here for eight years.”

Reflecting on the title last year, Aditi said, “The win set the bar for me and then I won two in a row. Qualifying for the LPGA was good. The level of experience I gain is invaluable and I’m one of the first girls from India to go there and do it."

Beth Allen, the World No 130 from United States, rated the course “tricky” but felt “confident.” Asked to speak on Aditi, she said, “I think it’s phenomenal what Aditi has done for this country. There have always been great players from here, like Simi Mehra, who has been around for a long time, but it’s really impressive what Aditi has done and I think she’s an inspiration for young girls especially.”

Kavita Singh, president of the Women's Golf Association of India, summed it well. “I will be happy if the girls take golf as a profession and we can see 50 girls in this tournament in the next decade.”