Shubhankar leads home challenge in Indian Open

Indians have won the Open times in the last four years ever since it became part of the European Tour in 2015.

Shubhankar Sharma, who beat the odds and set a course record of eight-under 64 last year, is back to win the Indian Open title that slipped away after he was among the leaders on the final day.   -  Special Arrangement

Another edition of $1.75 million Hero Indian Open returns to the DLF Golf and Country Club course this week. Again there is hope of witnessing the coronation of yet another home-grown champion on Sunday evening.

Strangely, there is no sound logic behind this optimism. After all, barring a few privileged ones who get to play at this ‘Members’ Only’ facility, there is no real ‘home advantage’ for the Indians.

Moreover, the course designed by Gary Player, seem to benefit the long hitters, with precision. Therefore, for most Indians, the challenging nature of this course is more discouraging as compared to their counterparts from the European Tour.

Ironically, in spite of the challenges, Indians have won the event three times in the last four years ever since it became part of the European Tour in 2015. 

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Anirban Lahiri defeated S. S. P. Chawrasia in a playoff in 2015. Chawrasia returned to win in 2016 and 2017 and became the first Indian to retain a title on the European Tour.

For the record, nine Indians have won the title for a total of 13 times. Indeed, if past is any pointer to the future, then the optimism behind another Indian champion stands justified.

On a course that tests patience, skill and accuracy of a golfer, only 15 players shot under-par last year. Though the 17th hole, where a golfer is required to hit uphill to reach the green, it is the par-4 14th that turned out to be the most difficult hole last year. The par-four hole saw 128 bogeys and 37 double-bogeys or worse in four days.

Shubhankar Sharma, who beat the odds and set a course record of eight-under 64 last year, is back to win the title that slipped away after he was among the leaders on the final day. Lahiri and Scott Hend, the Asian Tour leader after winning Maybank Championship on Sunday, are around.

Also read: Golfers excited for Hero Indian Open 2019

Though there are 50 Tour champions in the field, a first-time winner cannot be ruled out.

Shubhankar reflected on his last year’s performance and said, “This was my home course for the longest time and it feels great to be back on familiar grounds. The course is playing much better than last year.

"I am obviously a lot more mature this year and really enjoying my game.”

Lahiri spoke about his lack of form and said, “My game has been a bit inconsistent but it is moving in the right direction. I’ve had a couple of bad weekends, but I have managed to single out the problems which need to be fixed. The problem with me is I always try too hard and losing my rhythm in that process.”