Lahiri leads a classy field in Indian Open

Among the in-form challengers, American Peter Uihlein is expected to do well after three top-10 finishes in his last three events. Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Australia’s Marcus Fraser and Scott Hend, winner of last week’s True Thailand Classic also look in great touch.

Legendary runner and avid golfer Milkha Singh, with defending championAnirban Lahiri and three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington afterthe pro-am event of the $1.66 million Hero Indian Open at the DelhiGolf Club course in New Delhi on Wednesday.

The richest ever Hero Indian Open, offering $1.66 million, has rightly attracted possibly the strongest field as well. Beginning at the Delhi Golf Club course here on Thursday, the flagship event on the country’s golfing calendar offers an added interest in this Olympic year.

For the winner’s share of $2,76,660, defending champion and 52{+n}{+d} ranked Anirban Lahiri is back. There are five other Top-100 players in the fray – Marcus Fraser (Aus, 63), Joost Lutien (Ned, 75), Scott Hend (Aus, 79), Tommy Fleetwood (Eng, 82) and Marc Warren (Eng, 89).

On the eve of this mega-event, Lahiri was looking to come good once again at his favourite venue. “Over the years, if you have a strategy at Delhi Golf Club, you don’t mess with it. It is hard enough playing here so you stick with it. I won’t reinvent a new strategy because my plan works. I just need to execute it better and more efficiently.

“This is one of the events where you want to keep coming back and defending over your lifetime. It is a good feeling to have and you know that it can be done. The whole exercise is to put yourself in the position again come Sunday,” said the 28-year-old.

In terms of achievements, three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington, notwithstanding his current rank of 125, tops the race. Now 44, Harrington won The Open in 2007 and 2008 and added the 2008 PGA Championships. The Irishman won on the PGA Tour last year and collected a title on the Asian Tour in 2014.

Among the in-form challengers, American Peter Uihlein is expected to do well after three top-10 finishes in his last three events. Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Australia’s Marcus Fraser and Scott Hend, winner of last week’s True Thailand Classic also look in great touch.

The 2013 champion Bangladesh’s Siddikur Rahman, given his comfort-level on this tree-lined course, could well be among the contenders on Sunday.

The home interest stands enhanced in the presence of S.S.P. Chowrasia, former champion Arjun Atwal, Jeev Milkha Singh, Shiv Kapur, Chiragh Kumar, Rahil Gangjee and Rashid Khan. Chowrasia, a four-time runner-up in this event, will be looking to do one better this Sunday.

Going by the current world rankings, Lahiri has sealed his place in the squad for the Rio Olympics being the top-ranked Indian. The race for the second berth, looking well within the grasp of Chowrasia (ranked 243), is being chased by Chiragh (290) and Rashid (343). A podium-finish for any one from the trio could well prove decisive before the cut-off qualification date of July 11.