Anirban Lahiri calls the Hero Indian Open, as a ‘fifth Major’ for Indians, but he along with Scott Hend and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, will be looking at strong performances this coming week at the Hero Indian Open 2017 to give themselves a chance to tee up at the year’s first Major, Augusta Masters next month.
Lahiri, the 2015 Asian tour No. 1, who played the Masters last two years, is currently, 73rd, while Hend, the 2016 Asian Tour No, 1, is ranked five spots higher than the Indian at 68th. Kiradech, the Asian Tour No. 1 in 2013, is 81st. They need to break into the top-50 the week prior to the Masters to qualify.
Lahiri, whose seven Asian Tour titles, include two co-sanctioned with Europe, said, “The win (Hero Indian Open 2015) is definitely up there. It’s one of the most special feelings. We call it our fifth Major. It’s as special as any other victories but maybe it ranks above everything else that I’ve done.”
The 29-year-old believes the tournament’s move to the Gary Player-designed DLF course would ensure a more level playing field.
“I would say it would not be as Indian dominated if the event was held at Delhi Golf Club. DLF is more parkland and more like the European-style courses. It’s going to be more open and longer holes, not as demanding off the tee as with DGC. You might not see a leaderboard littered with Indian names. But It’ll be great to keep the Indian Open in India,” he said.
“It’s 18 new holes which won’t be the same as to what we’ve played on previously. I don’t know what to expect. I’ll be playing it the first time when I get there.”
Lahiri and Chawrasia have been at the forefront of the Hero Indian Open for last three years are keen to keep that going as they take on the best from Asia and Europe at the Hero Indian Open 2017 this coming week. But even their own Indian colleagues will be a tough challenge. Gaganjeet Bhullar, who won on Asian Tour twice last year, in-form youngster Shubhankar Sharma, who has not finished below T-11 in his last four starts, are in great shape and Shiv Kapur T-12 in Malaysia.
In one of the strongest collection of currently in-form Asian Tour players, eight of the Top-10 on the Order of Merit will tee up at the DLF Golf and Country’s Gary Player layout. That list has a mix of young and experienced players from all over.
Asia’s leading cast includes Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Filipino Miguel Tabuena, Chinese Taipei’s Chan Shih-chang and Bangladeshi trailblazer Siddikur Rahman. Eight players featuring in the current top-10 of the Order of Merit including Thai teen phenom Phachara Khongwatmai and India’s teen star Shubhankar.
The field also Rafa Cabrera Bello will be flying in from WGC-Mexico, and other stars flying from the Latin American country will be Australians Hend and Marcus Fraser, who were No. 1 and 2, on the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
The Hero Indian Open 2017 will be held at the Gary Player course at the DLF Golf & Country Club fromMarch 9 to 12, 2017.
The prize purse has been enhanced to US$ 1.75 million, which is almost six times more than US$ 300,000, which it was when Hero took on the Title Sponsorship of the Indian Open in 2005.