No home advantage at Indian Open, says Chawrasia

S.S.P. Chowrasia, the defending champion, is looking to become the first golfer on European Tour to win his first four titles at home. He has conceded that the course for the upcoming tournament is a tough one for players.

S.S.P. Chowrasia at the re-designed DLF Golf and Country Club on Tuesday, ahead of the USD 1.75 million Indian Open.   -  Special Arrangement

Till last year, S.S.P. Chowrasia came to the Indian Open golf looking to do one better than his runner-up finish. Second best on four occasions, Chowrasia finally got it right last year at the Delhi Golf Club course. This week, as the defending champion in the USD 1.75 million event starting on Thursday, Chowrasia is looking to become the first golfer on European Tour to win his first four titles at home. His previous three wins – the 2008 Emmar Masters, 2011 Avantha Masters and the 2016 Indian Open – have all come in the National Capital Region.

In fact, the Avantha Masters triumph came here, at the DLF Course and Country Club, but then, the course was designed by Arnold Palmer. This time, the action returns to the course re-designed by Gary Player. By the looks of it, the long hitters should stand a better chance on this course. Unlike the three-lined Delhi Golf Club course, which is unforgiving for those missing the fairway, this young course should suit the regulars in Europe. This, in turn, brings down the prospects of an Indian holding the trophy on Sunday.

“This is a tough course. If we play here more often, we’ll get used to it. It’s a different course. I’ve played a lot abroad but this is totally different. I don’t think there’s home advantage as it’s a new course for us. Delhi Golf Club is also a tough course but we’ve played there so many times and we know how to play it. That’s why Indians always play well there,” said Chowrasia.

Gary Player reckons the winning score could well be around 14-under. But Chowrasia smiled it off. “I think it could be around 10-under,” indicating what he thought about the degree of difficulty involved in tackling the course.

‘Complete’ players

Chowrasia’s challengers are headed by this year’s marquee player Rafa Cabrera Bello, the 32-year-old Spaniard ranked 25th in the world. An admirer of his compatriot and namesake in tennis (Rafael Nadal), Rafa was all praise for Chowaria and Anirban Lahiri. “I think both are good examples. They are very, very complete. Anirban, I really think, is a world-class player. What I have always enjoyed and valued a lot about Indian players is how naturally talented they seem to be. The majority of them, you look at their swings and they don’t look mechanical at all. It seems like they have been born with it and almost self-taught.”

Among the young turks, the one to watch out for is Thailand’s 18-year-old sensation Phachara Khongwatmai, the youngest winner on the Asian Development Tour at 15! This year he was runner-up at Singapore Open and the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth. And he is here in search of his maiden title.

Strangely, the teenager picked Gaganjeet Bhullar as the Indian with the best chance of winning this week. “I think Bhullar has a good chance as he hits it straight and long, his short game is also strong. On this course, you have to hit it long.”

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