India’s hopes in the Hero Women’s Indian Open starting Thursday would rest on home favourite Vani Kapoor even as the biggest Indian name in world golf at the moment, Aditi Ashok, would be conspicuous by her absence.

The only Indian winner of the tournament, now in its 12th year, Aditi is also currently the only Indian on the prestigious Ladies PGA Tour and would be participating in the Buick LPGA event in Shanghai at the same time.

“As a past champion, it wasn’t easy to make this decision but I look forward to playing many more Indian Opens in the coming years,” Aditi said in a statement.

In her absence, it would be Vani carrying the burden on expectations on her home course. As the best Indian at tied-sixth last year, Vani has been honing her skills and experience on the Ladies European Tour the last two years and it has been visible in her game. A sudden flaring of tendinitis is her only concern.

“The last one year has been one of great learning and I have been preparing hard. I am hoping to get over my tendinitis soon. This is my home course and I know it well,” Vani said on the eve of the tournament. The other Indian expected to do well is current Indian Order of Merit leader Tvesa Malik, playing her first Indian Open as a pro. Tvesa, 22, would be hoping for a good result ahead of her attempts to go on the LET Q-School.

Big names

Among the big foreign names in the fray, defending champion Camille Chevalier of France, who went on to become Rookie of the Year after her win here in 2017, would be hoping for a similar turn of fortunes to get over her struggles on the tour this year but would face tough competition from Swede Caroline Hedwall, who won the title in 2011, 2016 LET Order of Merit winner Beth Allen of USA and Sarah Kemp.

A victory here for Hedwall would make her only the second multiple winner after Thai Phatlum Pornanong (three times) and the first to win on both the old Arnold Palmer and new Gary Player courses. With a $500,000 prize purse and 120 golfers from 30 countries, this would also be the first time the competition would be played over four full days and telecast live on D Sports.