Defending champion SSP Chawrasia and his compatriot Anirban Lahiri will return for yet another shot at glory when the Hero Indian Open, with an increased prize fund of USD 1.75 million, tees off at the DLF Golf and Country Club from March 9-12.
Co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour for the third time since 2015, the Indian Open has enjoyed a significant increase in prize money, which is almost six times more than USD 300,000, when Hero took on the Indian Open in 2005.
Fellow Olympians Chawrasia and Lahiri, who have either won or finished second in each of the last three editions of the Indian Open, are expected to spearhead the local challenge against the leading players from the Asian Tour and the European Tour.
The tournament is also set to have the largest line-up of leading Indian golfers including Chawrasia, Lahiri, Gaganjeet Bhullar, Jeev Milkha Singh, Jyoti Randhawa, Arjun Atwal, Rashid Khan, Shiv Kapur and Rahil Gangjee.
The event will also become the first men?s international event to be played at the Gary Player course at the DLF Golf and Country Club. The tournament has been played only before at the DLF, but at the Arnold Palmer course, back in 2009 when C Muniyappa won the title. Chawrasia and Lahiri had won their maiden Indian Open titles at the Delhi Golf Club (DGF) in 2016 and 2015 respectively.
Having finished runner-up on four occasions in 1999, 2006, 2013 and 2015, Chawrasia finally pipped fellow Lahiri and Korea?s Jeunghun Wang to the coveted title in 2016, just a year after Lahiri had edged Chawrasia out in the play-off in 2015.
Interestingly, in the edition before that, in 2013 at the 50th anniversary of the tournament, both Lahiri and Chawrasia shared second place after being outclassed by Bangladeshi Siddikur Rahman.
Kapur, who was present at the tournament launch, said it was matter of honour to play at home.
Asked on the change of venue, Kapur said: “I would call DGC the golf equivalent of Eden Garden and DLF is like play at the Lord’s or MCG. It is going to be harder to play at DLF as the course is slopier and bouncier. I am looking forward to the challenge”.
Fresh home-grown talent like S Chikkarangappa, Shubhankar Sharma and Khalin Joshi, who have all come close to winning their maiden international pro title, will also make a strong bid to find their breakthrough on home soil.
While the final list of players will be confirmed closer to the tournament, some leading players from the European and Asian Tours are also set to play in the Indian Open this year.
Hero MotoCorp chairman Pawan Munjal added: “Indian golf is at a very exciting juncture, as it has begun making a mark on virtually all golf Tours across the world. The Hero Indian Open is on the European Tour platform for the third year in a row and the field has steadily become stronger. Amidst this the exciting news is that Indian players have still managed to hold their own, having won the title last two editions.”