India Open: Mukesh Kumar ready to defend title

The tournament, under a cloud of pollution and reduced visibility, may not attract the best of the Asian tour but it holds promise of some intense golf over the next four days.

Almost every top professional would feature in this edition but the pullout by veteran Jeev Milkha Singh on the eve of the tournament is a big blow.   -  Getty Images

The last edition of the Panasonic India Open Golf was reduced to 54 holes on account of foggy conditions. It will be no different this year as Delhi reels under a cloud of pollution, reducing visibility, even though the golfers would be well focussed on their target. The prize money for the full-field Asian Tour event is $400,000 with defending champion Mukesh Kumar set to have a go at the title.

The tournament may not attract the best of the Asian tour but it holds promise of some intense golf over the next four days. Not being a Europe-sanctioned event, it does not attract the elite but there is always room for close contests.

Almost every top professional would feature in this edition but the pullout by veteran Jeev Milkha Singh on the eve of the tournament was a big blow. He suffered a freak injury on his left elbow when trying to open a coconut water bottle. “I was really looking forward to this week, but I need to rest and allow the elbow to heel,” said Jeev.

Indians have excelled in the past editions, winning it on five occasions with Mukesh Kumar turning back the clock last year to become the oldest winner on the Asian Tour. “My game is shaping up well. I need to work on my putting and my aim would be retaining my trophy. Playing at the Delhi Golf Club requires a lot of planning. You have to plan your shots on this course.”

Others in the fray, in a 126-man field, are Shiv Kapur, Ajeetesh Sandhu and Gaganjeet Bhullar, who have all won on the Asian Tour this season. An attraction this year is Paul Peterson of the United States, who is a one-time winner on the European Tour.

Adding to the competitive list are Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand, with an enviable record of 18 wins on the Asian tour, S.S.P. Chawrasia, the highest-ranked Asian Tour player, and Malaysia’s Nicholas Fung and Thai’s Rattanon Wannasrichan.

In the limelight will be Sandhu, who won in Chinese Taipei earlier this month and he followed it up with a triumph in the Japan Challenge Tour. “In golf it is just a matter of getting comfortable with your own game, to understand your strengths and your weaknesses. I think I’m just maturing as a person and as a golfer, and that’s been probably the key to my form of late,” said Sandhu.