The pioneer helps give birth to Indian Open and wins it, too
Peter Thomson, one of the legends in the annals of the British Open, preferred to stop over in India enroute to the Open each year. Over a period of time, he became friends with the Indian golfing community, many of whom were members of the Indian Golf Union.
Thomson had a soft corner for National Opens, so he was keen to see that India, too, got its own Indian Open. He won the British Open five times – four of them even before the start of the Indian Open. In his career Thomson also won the Australian Open three times, the New Zealand Open nine times and the Indian Open three times and overall, he won National Opens of 10 countries.
A few years earlier in 1962, Thomson helped set up the Asian Circuit, which till then had various National Opens dotting South East Asia. But no one had strung them together into a circuit.
In 1964 with Thomson as the driving force, the Indian Open was born.
To bolster the Indian Open, he promised, that not only would he play as often as possible, but also ensure top stars who were his friends. For the inaugural edition Thomson was there as were Welshman Brian Huggett, Ralph Moffit and Malcolm Gregson and the next few years also saw Irishman Hugh Boyle and Englishman Guy Wolstenholme, who played a lot of his golf in Australia, and Miguel Angel, an amiable Spaniard, who was fourth at the 1957 British Open and eighth at the 1964 Open.
More than four decades later Thomson still had vivid memories of that win in 1964. In 2006 at Hoylake, he recalled, “Two rounds were played on the last day of the first Indian Open. In the morning, I think I scored an 81 or 82 (it was actually 80) and I was sort of a goner. I had visited the bushes too many times. But in the afternoon I rallied myself and shot a 67 and so I was the winner.”
Thomson added, “The Delhi course was fraught with trouble because of those impenetrable bushes and I was fascinated with the use of the ‘agewallahs’ who would somehow get into the bushes and find your ball in a good lie!” Thomson opened with first two rounds of 73 and 72 and held the lead. On the final day, two rounds were to be played and Thomson ended with an 80 in the third round and he seemed to have blown his chance. Moffit with rounds of 75, 72 and 76 led the field after 54 holes at 223, and he shared the lead with Gregson (75, 73 and 75) and India’s own Shadi Lal (77, 74, 72).
Thomson was tied for fourth with Huggett (77, 73 and 75) at 225. But in the afternoon, Thomson roared back like a Tiger and shot a five-under 67, which stayed as a course record for a long time. He had an eagle and five birdies to go with two bogeys and zoomed to the top at four-over 292. Second placed Moffit, despite a steady 73, was four shots behind at 296 and Huggett despite a 72 was third at 297, while Gregson and Burma’s Mya Aye were tied for fourth at 299 and Shadi Lal, with a 79 in final round was fifth at 302.
India’s best was Shadi Lal, who had shared the lead with Ralph Moffit and Malcolm Gregson after three rounds, but he slipped in the final round with a seven-over 79. He ended fifth. R.K.Pitamber was sixth at 303. Behind him, also in top-10 among professionals were Lekhi Chand Sharma and Hira Lal. The top amateur was P.G.Billoo Sethi at 303.
The Australian superstar loved the Delhi Golf Club. Among the other ‘gifts’ that Thomson gave Indian golf, was the re-designing of the RCGC and the DGC in the 1960s and ’70s.
Amateur Sethi makes Indian golf community feel proud
For almost four decades since its inception, the Indian Open alternated between Kolkata’s Royal Calcutta Golf Club and Delhi’s Delhi Golf Club. The Indian Open came to the RCGC in the second year of the event. The RCGC was a challenging course with 23 tanks, as the water hazards are called at the club, and it played to a tough par-73.
In 1965, the defending champion, Peter Thomson was back, as were many of his friends. Guy Wolstenholme, Malcolm Gregson and the Spaniard Miguel Angel. The Japanese made their presence felt through Tomoo Ishii, winner of Malaysian Open in 1964 and 1965.
Leading the Indian challenge once again were amateur Billoo Sethi, who the previous year had finished 11 shots behind the winner Thomson. The Indian pros in the forefront were the likes of Lal Chand, Shadi Lal and Lekhi Chand Sharma.
Sethi got off to a flyer, shooting five-under 68, one shot ahead of Wolstenholme and then there was Angel Miguel (71) and Ishii (73) while Thomson languished at 76. The second round saw Sethi build on his lead with yet another sizzling 68 that put him at 10-under 136, while Wolstenholme, his nearest rival, was five-under 141 (69-72). Thomson recovered with a 68 to come to one-under 145, as did Ishii.
Sethi faltered somewhat in the third round with a one-over 74, but was still four clear of Wolstenholme with one more round to go.
In the final round, Sethi eschewing all risks played steady, while others trying to close in made mistakes. He carded a one-under 72, driving straight down the fairways, reaching most greens in regulation and then holing his two-putts on the greens. Playing with him Wolstenholme shot a 75, and stayed second and Thomson with a 74 came third. Angel Miguel and Ishii were fourth and fifth.
Amateur Sethi’s total of 10-under 292 was a whopping seven shots clear of professional Wolstenholme (289) and eight ahead of Thomson’s 290.
Years later Thomson recalling Billoo, said, “Billoo was quite interested in turning professional and, of course, I was in a delicate position whether to push him into doing it. In the end I left the decision up to him. Certainly he was good enough to be a wandering professional golfer. But that kind of a lifestyle was rather foolish for him.”
Thomson may have finished third at the Indian Open, but a few months later, he won his fifth last British Open and behind him was another India regular, Brian Huggett in second place. Thomson’s 1965 triumph at the British Open is often considered the most significant as the top stars from America had begun coming across the Atlantic for the only Major outside of the US.
The British Open field included Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, the 1960 winner Kel Nagle, and the defending champion, Tony Lema among others.
Sethi stayed an amateur through his career and was a regular in the Indian team for the prestigious Eisenhower Cup between 1958 and 1980. Sethi passed away in June 1981, after playing a major role in ensuring golf a place in the Asian Games programme for 1982. And India won the team and individual gold at the Asian Games in New Delhi.
While Sethi was beating the whole field another young Indian amateur, Ashok Malik was emerging at the same time. Malik, who would top the amateur section many times in later years, shot 302, the same as best Indian pro, Lal Chand and better than Lekhi Chand Sharma (309).
Thomson adds a second Indian Open to five British Open title
Peter Thomson’s place in history books of world golf was already assured. When he arrived at the DGC for the 1966 edition of the Indian Open, he was the defending champion of the British Open, having won the world’s oldest Major for the fifth time in 1965 at Royal Birkdale. Yet, the competitive Thomson came to India with the aim of avenging his 1965 defeat at the hands of amateur, Billoo Sethi.
Thomson’s appearance at 1966 Indian Open also marked the first and only time that a defending champion from a Major was coming to India for an event. The Indian Open field also included Hugh Boyle (12th at Birkdale, 1965) and Wolstenholme (17th at Birkdale, 1965) and Malcolm Gregson, who in 1964 at St. Andrews had achieved his best of tied 19th, but missed the cut at Birkdale.
Thomson began with a modest one-under 71 at the Delhi Golf Club but he was just one behind Boyle (70). But for the home fans, the disappointment was Billoo Sethi, who despite fine weather, shot a five-over 77.
Sethi fought back the next day with the day’s best of two-under 70. But Thomson shot a second straight 71 to stay in lead at two-under 142, with Boyle closest at one-under 143. Gregson (73, 72) and Wolstenholme (74, 72) were right behind, but over par. A little further behind was Sethi whose 70 kept him in touch at three-over 147.
On the third day, with the course playing tougher than the first two, Thomson stayed steady with a 73, while Wolstenholme and Sethi carded even par cards, while Boyle had a 73 and Gregson 74. When the players teed for the final day, Thomson (215) still had his nose ahead of Boyle (216) by one and Wolstenholme (218) was another two behind and Sethi was three back at 219 in tied fourth place.
On the final day, Thomson ran away from the field with a three-under 69, the best among all for the week, which gave him a total of four-under 284 and a six-shot win over the trailing and second placed threesome. Sethi crept up with a 71 but still ended tied second with Boyle (74) and Wolstenholme (72) at 290. Gregson (73) was tied fifth at 293.
Wolstenholme, a regular to the Indian Open in its early years was in the top five for three years in a row from 1965, but never won. He was second in 1965, third in 1966 and fifth in 1967.
From an Indian viewpoint, Billoo Sethi was the top Indian in the field in tied second, despite a disappointing start with a 77 in first round. He admitted to being disappointed at not being able to retain his title. He would never win again against the professionals, as the competition grew stiffer by the year. Amar Singh was the next best Indian at 297 and Ashok Malik cemented his place as an upcoming star with 298.
Hosoishi, the ‘rising son’ from japan rallies to grab title
Coming from a country, which is obsessed with golf, Kenji Hosoishi was little known in India, though he had won the Japan Open in 1961. The big names were all Australians and Englishman like Peter Thomson, Guy Wolstenholme and Malcolm Gregson among others. Also Hosoishi (219) was never in the picture for the first three days, as he lay seven shots behind the leader Gregson (212) after 54 holes. Between Gregson and Hosoishi were other names like Thomson and Stuart Murray (214 each), Mya Aye (217) and Wolstenholme (218).
The final day saw Hosoishi tee-off seven behind the leader Gregson. Playing ahead of the lead group, he struck form and rhythm early. He took a few risks at the right juncture and also found the greens unerringly. Bred on Japan’s fast greens, he rolled them in perfectly at the RCGC. As he completed his final round in the day and tournament-best 68, he set the clubhouse target of 287 and waited for the leaders to come in.
Overnight leader Gregson, meanwhile struggled and just about managed to hole the crucial last putt on 18th to card 75 and get into a play-off at 287. The play-off was a cliff-hanger, which went to three holes. Hosoishi, now playing like a man possessed answered Gregson’s birdies with birdies of his own on both the first and second play-off holes. On the third, Gregson faltered and allowed Hosoishi to become the first Japanese champion at Indian Open. The 30-year-old Hosoishi played often on the old Japan tour – the new one came into being in 1973 – and won the prestigious Japan Open in 1961. He was also third in 1963 and fifth in 1969, when Hideyo Sugimoto won the title.
Hosoishi sizzled on the last day, while the others faded away and even Gregson was bested in the play-off, which lasted three holes. Earlier, Thomson and Murray, too, lost the way with 75 each and tied for third at 289 and Wolstenholme (72) got his third top-5 position in as many years at 290 in fifth place and Mya Aye (74) was sixth at 291.
Sewgolum, considered by many as greatest golfer to come out of South Africa, was tied seventh with Vines, who went on to win the Hong Kong Open the following year, and also at the same score was Barry Coxon at 295.
Sewgolum was not allowed to compete in South Africa later on. He died a poor man at the age of 48.
However many years later, his efforts were recognised and a film, too, was made on his life.
The Indian connection
Delhi professional Shadi Lal (303) with steady golf was the top Indian professional finishing just outside the top-10 in tied 11th place. He was followed by Lal Chand (304). Amateur honours went to Ashok Malik at 304, as Billoo Sethi finished way down.
Hosoishi is first back-to-back winner at Indian open
Returning to a championship as a defending champion is always a special feeling. So it was with Kenji Hosoishi, when he came to the Delhi Golf Club for the 1968 edition of the Indian Open. The former Japan Open champion, was never a spectacular player, but very steady and consistent. The ability to stay calm separated him from the rest.
Also he had the ability to turn the tables. Back in 1961, he had emerged winner at Japan Open from a five-way play-off and in 1967 he made up a seven-shot deficit after three days to win the Indian Open. It was a strong field let by Peter Thomson, but he was playing with an injured wrist, which was heavily bandaged. The field included a bunch of players, who had done well at the 1967 British Open. , where Thomson and Hugh Boyle were tied eighth while Guy Wolstenholme and Stan Peach were tied 13th, Barry Coxon was 18th and Brian Huggett 25th. This time around, it was almost the same story.
Never in the forefront for the first three days, Hosoishi pipped the field on the last day, after starting four behind the third-round leader, Stan Peach of Australia. In a field that was relatively low-key, Hosoishi once again started very modestly, carding one-over 73 on first day, while Richard McClean, little known in India, shot a five-under 67 and former Eisenhower Cup player, Kiwi Walter Godfrey, also an relative unknown in these area, carded 68. Godfrey played the 1960 and 1962 Eisenhower Cups, when New Zealand finished fifth and fourth respectively.
On the final day, Peach began strongly and even luck seemed to be favouring him. After an early birdie, he topped a bunker shot that is still talked about 30 years later in the clubhouse by old-timers. On the seventh, Peach topped a bunker shot which rose and hit the dome of one of the monuments and bounced to within inches of the hole for a tap-in birdie. At that stage, Peach was six shots ahead of Hosoishi, and the title looked his for the taking.
But Hosoishi’s morning charge suggested a challenge from him like in the previous year. After that slice of luck, Peach collapsed and dropped shots in a bunch, while Hosoishi kept his head cool. As Peach dropped to a 75, Hosoishi brought in a three-under 69.
Like a year earlier, The Japanese played his best round on the last day. From four behind at the start and six behind after seven, he ended two ahead of Peach. With it came a second Indian Open crown and he became the first back-to-back winner and the second after Thomson to win the title twice.
Peach, McClean and Godfrey ended in a tie for second, while Wolstenholme ended seventh and Thomson ninth. Four years later, Godfrey went on to win the 1972 Hong Kong Open.
The Indian connection
The top amateur was Raj Kumar Pitamber, one of the leading golfers of that era. Educated in England, Pitamber hailed originally from the royal family of Nepal. Later he became the President of the Indian Golf Union.
Bantam Ben wins title, Shadi Lal comes second
The Indian Open was now six years old, but it was facing its first major crisis, as the event failed to attract top-drawer competition for the first time. So much so, there was even talk of calling off the event for a year, for so poor was the response. One of the principal reasons for this was the failure to put up decent prize money, to compete with other National Opens in Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong and Indonesia on the Asian Circuit.
India was going through a foreign exchange crunch and hiking prize money was hardly a priority. Yet, wiser counsels prevailed and the event was indeed held. It was the presence of ‘Bantam Ben’ as the Filipino star, Ben Arda, was known which saved the tournament from becoming a complete disaster.
The event became an Arda v the Rest contest in which Arda was far too strong. Despite modest starts of 74 and 75 on the first two days at the RCGC, Arda was never really threatened. On the final two days, Arda simply ran way with the title with rounds of 71 each. With a total of one-under 291, Arda was seven shots ahead of Delhi professional Shadi Lal (298) who tied with amateur Raj Kumar Pitamber for the second place.
S Nishida of Japan was fourth at 303, while another professional from Willingdon Golf Club in Bombay, Ruda Valji (304) was fifth. Shadi Lal, too, like Arda had risen from the ranks of being a caddie, but while Arda went on to win the Order of Merit on Asian Circuit in 1970, Shadi Lal played most of his golf for small prize purses in India.
But soon after finishing second at Indian Open, he along with Ruda Valji was selected to the national team, as India was invited for the World Cup of golf qualifying tournament in Singapore for the first time. After two rather listless rounds, Shadi Lal, too, like Arda came into his own only over the weekend when he shot classy rounds of 73 and 71.
It was the same with Pitamber, who carded 73 and 72 on last two days after 78 and 75 on first two days. Oxford-Bule Pitamber, an amateur, Shadi Lal, a Delhi professional, provided the first instance of two Indians finishing in top-three at the Indian Open. The tied second place finish remained the best for both. Arda passed away in December 2006, while Pitamber died a year earlier in August 2005.
The Indian connection
In a rather depleted field, there were three Indians in the top-5. While amateur R K Pitamber and professional Shadi Lal shared the second place, another amateur Ruda Valji from Bombay’s Willingdon CLub was fifth. In between in fourth place was Japan’s S Nishida.
Taiwanese Chen a runaway wire-to-wire winner
After the scare of 1969, the Indian Open in 1970 found a place on the Asian Circuit and that automatically boosted its image. There was no dearth of entries for the event, which for the second straight year was being held in Royal Calcutta Golf Club. There was just once in the third round that the Taiwanese stalwart, Chen Chien Chung seemed to have faltered with a two-over 75, but on each of the other three days, he was clearly the most dominant golfer at the seventh edition of the Indian Open despite heavy rains which not only forced the cancellation of the Pro-Am but also made the bunkers hard and softened the greens.
His first round card of 69 set the tone for the week and he broke the course record with a 67 on second and then rounded off the week with a five-under 68 on the final day of the seventh edition of the Indian Open Golf Championship at the Old Course of the Royal Calcutta Golf Club. A wire-to-wire winner, Chen totalled 13-under 279 for a new record total, breaking Billoo Sethi’s 10-under 282 set in 1965. The win was also Chen’s first on the Asian Circuit and his margin of victory, by seven shots over the seasoned Japanese star Koichi Ono was as big as Ben Arda’s the previous year. But this time around the competition was much stiffer. The field included Tomoo Ishii, who was two-time Malaysian Open champion from 1964 and 1965, and Hideyo Sugimoto, a two-time Japan Open winner in 1964 and 1969 besides Taiwan’s Hsieh Min Nan, a wily player, who helped Taiwan win the World Cup in 1972.
Besides the regular Thomson, the field also had the reigning Asian Circuit winner, Hsieh Yung-Yo of Taiwan and Welshman Guy Wolstenholme. The leading Indian pros were Shadi Lal, second in 1969 and Ruda Valji, fifth in 1969 while the top amateurs were Raj Kumar Pitamber, who had tied for second the previous year, Ashok Malik and Vikramjit Singh. The setback came in the form of the withdrawal of P.G.Sethi, because of ill-health besides Kenji Hosoishi, the two-time and only back-to-back winner (1967 and 1968) of the Indian Open who also pulled out.
Chen started the day three shots ahead of Ono and was never in trouble. Chen had four birdies and no bogeys on the front nine. That took him so far ahead that the rest were only playing for minor places. Three more birdies meant he was six-under at the 18th tee. He missed a birdie chance on the 18th, and not just that, he ended with a bogey, but was still a winner by seven shots. M Masuda of Japan with six birdies on the front nine, including five in a row, and then nine pars on back nine set a course record of 67, equalling Chen’s mark set two days ago in second round. Both Chen and Masuda got 50 pounds each for setting a new course mark.
Hsieh Min-Nan, brought in a well-crafted 69, which enabled him to aggregate six-under 286 and tie for second with Ono, the only player with all sub-par rounds. Tying for fourth were defending champion Arda, Sugimoto and Mitsuo Koneko, all of whom totalled five-under 287 each and Masuda was next at four-under 288. A year earlier Sugimoto won the Japan Open.
Mindful of the vandals, who had spoilt the greens at the previous championships in 1969, the RCGC officials ensured a round-the-clock vigil.
The Indian connection
Vikramjit Singh won the amateur trophy his four rounds score of 302, while C.T. Chen of Taiwan runner up with 306 with Ashok Malik and M Mane sharing the third place at 307.
Marsh outduels fellow Aussie to emulate Thomson
The Australian influence, or more particularly that of Peter Thomson, on the Indian Open was hard to miss in the early days of the tournament. While Thomson kept his promise of returning each year and also bring with him a sprinkling of classy names, a good number of other Australians used the Asian Circuit and the Indian Open as a platform to launch their early career.
And some continued to come to India even after making it big. One such name was Graham Marsh, also nicknamed ‘Swampy’. When he first came to India, Marsh was trying to find his feet in professional golf, having turned pro only in 1969. But after his win in 1971, he won twice in Europe in Swiss and German Open and a year later the Scottish Open, but still came to India, where he won again in 1973.
One of the truly global golfers of his era, Marsh, won 65 titles around the world, including 25 in Japan (of which 20 came on official Japan Tour), 11 each on European and Australian Tours and five in Asia, including two Indian Opens and two Malaysian Opens. His sole PGA Tour win was the Heritage Classic, but he did win two Senior Majors.
At the 1971 edition, which came to DGC after a gap of two – instead of one year, Marsh was engaged in a thrilling clash with fellow Australian, David Graham, who would go on to win two Majors later in his career. Marsh and Graham would go neck-and-neck for most of the week, before they came into the final round, which they began tied at 10-under. And then Marsh pulled way just that wee bit to win a solitary shot. In a final round, resembling a match-play situation Marsh and Graham went head to head before Marsh edged ahead right at the finish to become the second Australian to win the Indian Open after the 1964 and 1966 champion, Thomson, who himself ended eighth in the event.
The Indian connection
The Indian challenge at the event was rather weak. As compared to Shadi Lal’s runner-up finish the previous year, the Indian professionals were unable to make a mark.
The top amateur was however, an Indian, Manjit Singh at, who totaled 303.
Brian Jones maintains the Australian tradition of efficiency
The Australians by nature have an outgoing personality. And as sportspersons, they are also great travellers, with an ability to achieve great success even in foreign lands. Following in the illustrious footsteps of Peter Thomson and Graham Marsh, there was Brian Jones, another great global golfer.
In 1972, a year after Marsh won, another young Australian, Brian Jones arrived on the scene. This one was just past 21, as against Marsh, who was 27 when he came to India. Jones, tied with Ben Arda, the 1969 champion, after three days, nosed ahead on the final day with a three-under 70 for a total of 10-under 282, as Arda finished in a tie for second with the legendary Peter Thomson, both totaling eight-under 284.
It was the second year running, an Australian was winning the Indian Open. Jones became the third Australian after Thomson and Marsh to win the title. With a purse of 6,500 pounds on offer (translating to Rs. 1,25,000) the field was a fairly strong one, with Peter Thomson leading the challengers. Also in the fray were defending champion, Marsh, Chen Chien Chung, the 1970 winner and Ben Arda, the 1969 topper. Add to them a host of strong Taiwanese and Japanese players like Ho Ming-Chung and Tomoo Ishii, Frank Philips, the two-time Singapore winner and the 1966 Hong Kong champion and Kiwi Walter Godfrey, the 1972 Hong Kong Open winner.
The field also had US Tour professional Frank Conner, who interestingly is one of the only two players, to have competed at both US Open tennis and US Open golf. On the final day, Jones made no mistakes, as he kept his nerves cool even as the more experienced Arda and Thomson made their moves. It was not spectacular golf, but it was efficient at the same time, as Jones played safe and waited for the birdies to happen, while collecting safe pars.
The Indian connection
Vikramjit Singh managed to edge out Ashok Malik on the final day to take the amateur honours with a total of 302.
Malik was two strokes behind and Simran Singh, who later became one of the India’s leading pros, was next at 306. Simran, a cricketer to start with, switched to golf and his son, Amritinder Singh, is now a professional on Indian and Asian Tours.
Billoo Sethi and Taiwanese amateur Hung Fa finished behind them. Among Indian professionals, the topper was Calcutta’s own Jamshed.
Marsh leads a clean sweep of top-3 by Aussies
The Australians had dominated the last two Indian Opens, finishing one-two in both. At the Delhi Golf Club, in 1973, the Australian contingent was once again very strong. All three Australians, who had won the title in past, were in the fray again – Peter Thomson, Graham Marsh and the upcoming Brian Jones, who at 21, had stunned a star-studded field a year earlier. Graham Marsh, one of the most successful players of his era not to have won a Major, played brilliant golf over the weekend with rounds of 68-68 to grab the title for the second time in three years.
It also maintained the Australian domination over the tournament, as they won the title for the third time in succession and what’s more this time they were 1-2-3. Starting at four-under Marsh, who shared the lead with Ginn going into the third round, started superbly with three birdies on the front nine. But Ginn was even better, as he turned in four-under and held a one-shot lead.
The crucial turnabout came on the 10th, when Ginn drove into the rough and came out with a double bogey. Another dropped shot on 12th meant Ginn from eight-under was down to five-under. Marsh, seven-under at the turn, meanwhile picked a shot on 11th, but dropped one at 12th to stay at seven-under, but he was now two ahead of Ginn. Marsh went onto land three more birdie, but he also gave away two bogeys. Still he ended with a 68 and a total of eight-under 280.
Ginn did pick his customary birdie on the 17th, but could do no better than a 71 and ended at five-under 283 for a second place. Brian Jones, the defending champion, was third with a final round of 71 and a total of four-under 284. The opening day saw defending champion, Jones share the lead with Ho Ming-Chung of Taiwan, as both carded two-under 70 each. Jones had five birdies, two on front nine and three on back stretch, but he also gave away three bogeys for a 70. A shot behind them were Marsh, Chen Chang Fa and Stewart Ginn, another Australian on the rise in world golf, who had a rare albatross on the 17th. Ginn took over the lead at 141 with a second round 70 and he led Arda by two shots. Jones and Marsh, who had won the title the last two years were one behind at 144. On the moving day, the penultimate round, it was Marsh who made the big move. He shot a four-under 68, shot four birdies on the outward journey and on the back nine, he had three more but also gave away two bogeys. He went into shared lead with Ginn, whose 71 included a pop-up from the cup on the 16th as the ball jumped out of the hole. Arda with a 71 was third at 214, two shots behind the leaders.
The story of the 1973 Indian Open tournament was Stewart Ginn’s affair with the 581-yard par-5 17th, where he had an albatross on the first day and then an eagle on the second.
He followed that up with birdies at the same hole on third and last days, for a total of seven-under for that one hole! Which means he was two-over for the rest of the 68 holes of the tournament.
The Indian connection
Ramji Lal, who led the Indian pros through the tournament, was the leading Indian pro finisher at nine-over 297. He shot rounds of 75, 71, 76 and 75 and tied amongst others with Walter Godfrey of New Zealand and ahead of Frank Philips (298) and Peter Thomson (299). The next best Indian was Amar Singh (299). The top amateur was Raj Kumar Pitamber with a total of 300, while Vikramjit Singh totaled 306. Billoo Sethi (307) and Ashok Malik (309) ended behind them. Halfway amateur leader, Jiti Choudhary, finished at 319.
Taiwan’s Kuo ends Australian streak
Apart from the Australians, the other contingent, which always came in big numbers for the Indian Open, was from Taiwan or the Chinese Taipei, as it also called by some. Back in 1970, Chen Chien Chung had become the first Taiwanese to stamp his name on the Indian Open trophy and had since been consistently making his presence felt. Other notable names included Hsieh Min-Nan, a former Asian Circuit Order of Merit winner and Ho Ming-Chung among others. All this while, another Taiwanese golfer, growing in stature back home, where golf was growing in popularity and quality, was Chie Hsiung Kuo. Winner of the 1967 and 1972 ROC PGA Championships, one of the prestigious events in Far-East, Kuo finally made his mark in India in 1974 by winning in a high-quality field at the RCGC.
On the final day, when play began, Kuo was four behind the leader Filipino Ireneo Legaspi, who was bidding to emulate countryman Ben Arda by winning the Indian Open. Legaspi was six-under 213 with rounds of 74, 71 and 68. Kuo came to India placed fourth on the Order of Merit on Asian Circuit. But on this Sunday, he was the steadiest. Playing in the group behind the leaders, he realised Legaspi was dropping strokes in a bunch and others, Klenk and Jones were not doing too well either. Cutting out risks he played safely going for the fairways and then getting to the greens in regulation for par chances.
He made most of them and added a few birdies in between. Kuo (74) set the clubhouse target of five-under 287 and his playing partner Burma’s Mya Aye totaled 289. Legaspi, playing with 1972 champion Brian Jones and American Don Klenk in the lead group collapsed with a 77 while Klenk shot 75 and Jones 74. Jones, Mya Aye and Klenk tied for second and Legaspi was fifh. That left Kuo a victor by two and became the second player from Taiwan to lift the Indian Open.
It also ended Australia’s streak of three Indian Opens in a row. It was once again a familiar but strong field, with Australians Peter Thomson, Stewart Ginn and Brian Jones, Filipino Ben Arda, who had won the Indonesian Open that year, Kiwi Walter Godfrey, Mya Aye, Filipino Eleutrio Nival, winner of the Singapore Open and Malaysian Open champion and former Indian Open winner Graham Marsh and a host of others.
On the final day, as Legaspi, looking to become the second from his country to win the Indian Open, crumbled under pressure as Kuo seized his chance. Legaspi, laid low by health problems left professional circuit a few years later and turned to teaching and gave free lessons in his hometown of Pasig. He died in 2006, the same year as Arda and with their passing an era in Philippines golf had ended.
The Indian connection
After many years, Billoo Sethi finished as the leading amateur with a total of 303.
Behind him were R.K. Pitamber and Vikramjit Singh. The top Indian pros were Om Prakash and Jamshed.
Ball puts Indian open back in Australia’s court
A year earlier, Taiwan’s Chie Hsiung Kuo had broken through the Australian stranglehold on the Indian Open. A year later the Australian contingent, despite the absence of Graham Marsh, was in full force trying to win back the title. The contingent included 35-year-old Ted Ball, the 1964 Singapore champion and other titles in Australia and New Zealand, returned to pro golf in 1973 after a short break during which he worked on a prawn trawling boat. He had heard of Australian success in India and therefore turned his attention to netting the Indian Open in 1975.
He did that amidst nail-biting tension over the weekend. Overcoming a poor start of 75-70 that put him eight behind the leaders at the halfway mark, Ball grabbed the lead with a third round card of 67 at the DGC which was being played to par-73 that year. Ball started the final round at seven-under 212, one ahead of Mya Aye, who time and again had challenged but never won the title, and Japan’s Yoshihisa Iwashita, who were both at 213. Hsieh Min-Nan and Ben Arda were at 215 and defending champion Chie Hsiung Kuo at 216.
In the final round, Kuo starting four behind Ball, made the big charge with five birdies on the front nine. He was playing three groups behind Ball. He shot three more birdies against one bogey on the back nine to come as the clubhouse leader at 10-under 282. Kuo had made eight birdies against just one bogey. Making a bid for it were Hsieh Min-Nan (68) who fell one short at 283 while Ben Arda (69) ended at 284.
It was now left to Ball, in the final group with May Aye and Iwashita to make an attempt to challenge Kuo’s mark. Mya Aye (71) and Iwashita (71) ended at 284, but Ball (70), who was 11-under and one ahead on the 17th tee with two holes to play had to par the last two holes to win outright. But on the 17th he went into the bushes and dropped a shot to come to 10-under. He now needed a par to get into a play-off or a birdie to win.
On the first play-off hole, Kuo needed to hole a 10-footer get his birdie, but he missed. Ball, placed closer, had a putt to win and the ball flirted with danger as it went around lip of the cup before dropping for the winning birdie. The Indian Open was back with the Australians. For Kuo the big mistake was the missed putt on the 13th, a bogey that proved costly. Kuo’s 66 was the best round of the week. Hsieh was sole third, while Arda, Mya Aye and Iwashita tied for fourth, with Martin Bohen (US) seventh at 287 and Maurice Bembridge (GBR) eighth at 289. The 1972 winner Jones, Aussies Stewart Ginn, Robert Taylor and Michael Ferguson, brother-in-law of late Stewart Payne, and Filipino Ireneo Legaspi were tied for 14th. Halfway leader Kiwi Walter Godfrey ended 20th because of his third round 81.
Hsieh continued to lead on Asian Circuit, followed by Kuo and Ball. The regulars were all back in 1975 edition with Americans and Australians in large numbers. The Japanese, too, were finding it convenient to come to India. But missing that year from the lot was Graham Marsh, the two-time champion.
The Indian connection
Amongst the Indian professionals, Bhola Ram emerged the topper at 301 followed by Jamshed at 304. In the amateur section, Vikramjit Singh was the top finisher at 301 followed by Ashok Malik at 304.
Vintage Thomson gives youngsters a lesson with third win
For more than a decade now, Peter Thomson had kept his promise of coming back for the Indian Open. He also ensured quality fields at each edition besides which he even won the title twice and contended on numerous other occasions. Surely, no player could be a better ambassador for a tournament than Peter Thomson.
So it was poetic justice that Thomson, who had won National Open titles in 10 countries, got to win the Indian Open a record third time. On the final day, the 1964 and 1966 winner Thomson started at two-over 218 for 54 holes. He was two behind the leader, the 1972 winner Brian Jones (216). The 1976 edition was in many ways a big challenge for Thomson. Not only was he competing against players way younger than him – Jones, born in 1951, was 22 years younger than Thomson, born in 1929 – but he himself had just re-designed the RCGC into a much tougher layout.
Thomson played smart golf, keeping the ball on the straight and narrow and reaching the greens in regulation. There were very few mistakes and for the youngsters watching him it was a lesson in intelligent golf, rather than showy, long-driving golf fraught with risks on a tough course. He returned a card of 70, while Jones went to 73. That gave an elated Thomson his third Indian Open win.
He also became the first player to win the title three times and remained so, till more than 30 years later in 2007 India’s own Jyoti Randhawa won a third Indian Open. Jones was second, once again his top-five finish showing how strong he was. There was a five-way tie for third with Australians Ted Ball and Michael Ferguson, Filipino Ben Arda, Taiwan’s Hsu Sheng-San and American Martin Bohen all at 291. Bohen, who played regularly for a few years on US Tour between 1972 and 1974, later became a teaching pro and occasionally played on Asian Circuit. Ferguson’s sister Tracey, later married Payne Stewart after meeting him on the Asian Circuit in Malaysia in 1980-81.
The field had the usual names who had been visiting India. Former champions apart from Thomson included Ben Arda (1969), Jones (1972) and Ted Ball (1975) while Taiwan’s Hsu Sheng-San, American Don Klenk, Burma’s Mya Aye and Japan’s Torakichi Torisawa were other strong players in the region at the time. With 91 foreign pros in a field of 134, it was a tough field.
The Indian connection
Alan Singh finally broke through the stranglehold of Billoo Sethi, R.K.Pitamber, Vikramjit Singh and Ashok Malik to emerge as the top amateur with a total of 309.
Jones beats veterans Thomson, Hayashi; becomes repeat winner
Peter Thomson was a legend in his own lifetime. And when it came to the Indian Open, he had a near-godlike status – three titles and countless top-10 finishes. But if there was one player, who could rival him or maybe even better him in terms of consistent showings during the decade of 70s at the Indian Open, it was Brian Jones. The Australian, who came to India in March 1972 as a 20-year-old rookie to make it big in international golf, won the Indian Open that year and in the eight-year period till 1979, he was in the top-10 seven times. He won twice, finished second three times, third once and sixth once. His only aberration was 14th place in 1975.
In the four years since he won his first Indian, Jones had finished second twice and third once, which had only made him hungrier for one more Indian Open. The surprise was not Jones winning, but Thomson blowing a four-shot lead with some error-laden golf on the last day. Jones was 25 years and competing with him for the honours were two 48-year-olds – Thomson and Yoshihiro Hayashi of Japan. Trailing leaders Thomson and Hsieh Min-Nan (211 each) by four shots, Jones seemed to have damaged his chances with his 76 on the third day. But the tenacious Jones, both aggressive and careful at the same time, worked his way back on the last day.
He clawed back into contention with well-compiled round. Over the last few holes, there were as many as six players in contention for the title. In one of the tightest and most exciting finishes, it all boiled down to nerves on the 72nd hole. At that stage there were six players – the last two groups – were on the 18th, either at the tee or the fairway and all had a chance to win. Jones came to the 18th tee at four-under and held his nerve better for a par to finish at 284.
Jones had made no mistake to make a par. Mya Aye (70), after going into the bushes, bogeyed the last hole bogey to finish at 285. Hayashi finished at 285 with a final round of 70. Hsieh Min-Nan, a co-leader overnight, was full of errors and finished with a 75 and at 286, while Wayne Peddy was one stroke further behind at 287. Thomson, also four-under at 18th tee, messed up on the approach and bogeyed the last to slip from four-under to three-under.
As Jones won the title, Japanese veteran Hayashi, Thomson and Mya Aye tied for second and Hsieh Min-Nan was fifth. The 1975 champion Ted Ball shot 71 (287) to be tied sixth with American Wayne Peddy, third after three rounds, was also a contender till the last few holes. He shot a 74 to end at 287.
The Indian connection
Vikramjit Singh emerged as the top amateur once again with a total of 301, while Indian professionals failed to make a big impression.
Brilliant Brask comes back from five shots to win by four
At 32, Bill Brask was not really among the favourites for the Indian Open, which was now in its 15th year. The event, now a popular stop on the Circuit, was attracting all leading stars from the Asian Circuit, which still included a lot of Americans, who had failed to make a mark on the very difficult and competitive US Tour. After rather modest rounds of 71, 73 and 73 on the first three days, Brask was five shots behind the three leaders, defending champion Brian Jones, Taiwanese star Chie Hsieng Kuo, winner here in 1974, and seasoned Australian Stewart Ginn who were at four-under 212.
But on Sunday, while the early focus was on the leaders Brask was in a zone, burning up the course as he shot six-under 67, while the leaders collapsed under the pressure and shot identical 76 each. From five shots behind the leaders, Brask ended up four shots ahead in one of the biggest comebacks in the history of Indian Open and with it came the trophy and winner’s cheque of $ 4,085 from the $ 30,000 purse.
The field for the fourth leg of the circuit at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club had 142 foreigners and 39 Indians and among them were the defending champion, Brian Jones, and the top five of the Asian circuit at that stage, including ‘Mr Lu’ Lu Liang Huan of Taiwan, one of the best known Asian names in world golf. The Taiwanese, very strong on Asian circuit, also had Hsu Sheng San, the 1978 Thai Open winner, Hsieh Min-nan, the Asian topper in 1977 who in 1972 was the World Cup individual winner and Chie Hsieng Kuo, the 1974 Indian Open, who was also second in 1975.
Past champions included Filipino Ben Arda, the 1969 winner, and Ted Ball, the 1975 champion besides strong players like Maurice Bembridge of England and Mya Aye of Burma. Beware the wounded golfer goes the old saying and Paul Purtzer of the US, who came to India from Thailand with fever and a bad stomach, opened the tournament with a seven-under 66 on the par-73 course. Though Purtzer, a frequent player on PGA Tour in mid-1970s – led by three shots, the man under the arc lights was John Benda, who aced the third hole to become the first claimant for the $ 2,000 prize put up for the feat.
Two-under at the start of the day, his 67 saw him end at eight-under 284, while Kuo, Jones and Ginn coming in the final group carded 76 each and finished in a tie for second at four-under 288. Six players, including first leader Purtzer, Mya Aye of Burma, Hsu Sheng San of Taiwan, winner of the Thai Open a week earlier, Ho Ming Chung of Taiwan, Canadian Gary Hamilton and Filipino Eleuterio Nival, all of whom were at three-under 289 rounded off the top-10.
The Indian connection
Alan Singh (300) was the top amateur. On the pro side, caddie-turned professional Noni was in the picture till second round at one-over 147, but thereafter he faded away.
Bangalore-born Burrows comes good at the end
The field with just 54 foreign professionals pros seemed a bit lean, but the presence of familiar names including three-time champion Peter Thomson and two-time champion Brian Jones from Australia and the defending champion, Bill Brask, alongside rising star, Lu Hsien-chuen, nephew of the famous ‘Mr. Lu’, Lu Liang Huan, who had contended at the Open some years back, ensured an interesting week. Lu, just a year old in pro golf came with a win at the Singapore and Malaysian Opens.
Then there was also Thailand Open winner, Mike Krantz, and the Bangalore-born Gaylord Burrows, who was making his annual trip to India for the sixth straight year with his parents – who lived in Bangalore – walking with him all four days. In the end Burrows won with little to spare and take $ 5,225.
Into the final day, Hsu, normally an attacking player, threw it away at the end, when the title looked his for the taking. He was two clear with three to play, but dropped bogeys on the 16th and 17th and fell back and finished one behind the ultimate winner, Burrows. Fortunes swung like a yo-yo. First it was Hsu, who dropped two bogeys early on the front nine, even as Burrows made his charge with a brilliant three-hole run of birdie-eagle-birdie on the seventh, eighth and ninth. That took Burrows past Hsu at the turn and the American then led by two. Into the home stretch, there were more twists as the pendulum swung Hsu’s way. Burrows coming under pressure gave away four shots between the tenth and 14th, including a double bogey on par-5 14th.
With Hsu parring five in a row from 10th to the 14th the two-shot deficit turned into a two-shot lead for the Taiwanese. The Taiwanese had a chance to increase that lead on the 15th as he was within 10 feet in two as Burrows made a five on the par-4 15th. But Hsu three-putted and also ended with a five, but the lead was still two. On the 16th, Hsu still haunted by the three-putt went into the bushes off the tee to end up with a bogey, while Burrows came back roaring splitting the fairway with his tee-shot and then birdying the hole which even course designer Thomson had marked out as the most dangerous on the Delhi Golf Club layout.
The two-shot swing brought Burrows and Hsu together. But on the 17th, Burrows landed his tee shot four feet from the pin, while Hsu was on the fringe. Burrows sank his birdie and Hsu three-putted for a second bogey and he was now two behind. Needing an eagle while hoping for no better than a par from Burrows on the closing 18th to force a play-off Hsu managed only a birdie, but Burrows played safe for a par on the par-5 hole and with a round of 71 he totaled four-under 284 to win by one shot over Hsu.
The latter carded a 75 for a three-under 285. Krantz came in third with a 75 for a total of one-under 287, while Takahashi and Thomson tied for fourth at even par 288.
The Indian connection
The best Indian in the field was Calcutta pro Noni, who ended tied 12th with a total of 298. A whole lot of other Indian players, Phil Pilling, Inder Pal, Rohtas Singh, Ramesh Chand and Simran Singh, too, made the cut and finished in money. The amateur title went to Ashok Malik.
Kurt Cox makes it three-in-a-row for americans
It took the Americans 15 years to stamp their name on the Indian Open trophy, but once they did that in 1978 through Bill Brask, they won the next two, as well to make it three-in-row. Only the Australians had done that before. While a majority of foreigners were those finding their feet in professional golf after giving up their amateur status, Peter Thomson continued to back the Indian Open and he as usual was there at the first tee. Two players, who in the future would make their mark on world golf, also visited India in 1980.
Payne Stewart of the US and Sam Torrance of Scotland came over, but neither left a big impression as they finished outside top-10. When it came to the top honour, little-known Kurt Cox, whose biggest success till then was a third place in the Italian Open in 1979, grabbed the title, which also brought with it $ 6660. Cox, 31, led the field by five shots after the third round. Barring a collapse, there was little chance that he would be overtaken.
Cox played his poorest round of the week with a two-over 75 for a total of six-under 286. But with equally modest performances from his main rivals, Cox emerged a winner by four over Liu Kuo Chi of Taiwan, who interestingly rose from way behind at 222 – as against Cox’s 211 – to finish second at 290, tied with Mya Aye of Burma, a consistent top-10 performer over the last few years. Mya Aye shot 74 on last day.
Asian Circuit leader Lu Hsi-Chuen, who came to Calcutta after wins in the Philippines and Thailand, shot a five-over 78 and finished tied fifth at 294. Thomson, Stewart and Torrance finished further down.
The Indian connection
As Rohtas Singh faded away after sharing lead in the first round, Om Prakash emerged the top India pro in the tied 14th place with a total of 298, the same as Billoo Sethi who was the top amateur once again.
Payne finds joy in India before hitting big time in US
The Indian Open into the 1980s had become a strong and popular event on the Asian circuit, which it joined in 1969. In 1981, it attracted the largest field in history with 138 foreign professionals who were joined by 42 from India. Despite the huge field, the organisers decided to allow all to tee off in a two-tee start. The cancellation of the Dunlop Invitational in Malaysia, which in the past clashed with the Indian Open resulted in the large field and the prize money, too, had increased to $ 60,000.
Though two-time winners Graham Marsh (1971 and 1973) and Brian Jones (1972 and 1977), now playing in Japan, and Lu Lian Huang were missing, the field included defending champion Kurt Cox (US), the 1979 champion, Gaylord Burrows, Chen Tsi-Ming, fresh from a win in Hong Kong and his talented brother Chen Tsi Hung. Tom Sieckmann, the leader of the Asian Circuit, and the winner of Philippines and Thai Opens, was also in the field. American Payne Stewart, who made the US PGA Tour a few months after the Indian Open, had failed to make the US Tour the previous season and so decided to spend 1981 playing in Asia, just as he had done in 1980.
Stewart opened the 1981 tournament in style with a five-under 67 that put him two clear of the field. Four birdies against just one bogey on the front nine of 33, gave him a perfect start, which built on with two more birdies on back nine, including the par-5 18th. Sieckmann, Burrows and Hsu Sheng-San of Taiwan were two behind and a whole lot of others were at 70 and 71. A flawless second round of 67 put Stewart firmly in the saddle at 10-under 134, while Hsu shot another 69 to be four behind at six-under 138. Japanese star Naomichi Ozaki shot a 72 to move to third, while Sieckmann and Burrows ended their hopes with a 79 each. On the third day, Stewart was be struck down by both poor putting – he had a four-putt on the third – and back pain and came in with a card of 77. But with Hsu also not putting well, Stewart kept his nose ahead. Stewart was 211 for three days and Hsu 212. Hisao Inoue of Japan with rounds of 74, 70 and 71 was third at 215. But making a move up was Ho Ming Chung of Taiwan with a third round 69. On the final day Stewart was again not at his best. Struck by severe back pain, he needed a painkiller brought for him by Indian pro Simran Singh. But Stewart hung in as playing partner Hsu Sheng-San shot 76 and ended with a total of 288.
As Stewart virtually wrapped up the title with a near 18-footer on the 14th for a birdie, ahead of him, Ho Ming Chung (72) looked threatening with some great approaches. But he was found wanting on the greens and finished at 288. Stewart stuck to safe play and with a 73 lifted the Indian Open on his second attempt and from here on he was on road to bigger achievements. Hsu Sheng-San and Ho Ming Chung tied for second at 288, while Inoue, who later played regularly on Japan Tour and then Senior PGA tour, was fourth at 290. Lu Hsien Chuen and S Tuttle tied for fifth and Terry Anton, with whom Payne had started out on Asian Circuit tied seventh at 293 with Charlie Owen. Alas, life was not kind as he died in a plane accident, when his Learjet crashed in South Dakota in October 1999. The man with his trademark plus-fours won three Majors – the 1989 PGA Championships, the 1991 US Open and the 1999 US Open, a few months before his death. He was also second twice at the British Open. He was just 42 when he died.
The Indian connection
Rohtas Singh, who started the event with a 76 improved by one shot each day with 75, 74 and 73 on subsequent days for a total of 298 to be the top Indian professional.
Ramesh Chand, Simran Singh and Ram Dayal finished behind in the list of Indian professionals. Vikramjit Singh emerged the top amateur with a total of 298, the same as pro Rohtas, while Ashok Malik was the next amateur at 300. P.G.Sethi, the 1965 winner, played the pro-Am but skipped the main event due to health problems.
Consistent Hsu Sheng-San finally lands Indian Open crown
A total of 170 golfers, including 129 from 10 countries outside India competed for the $ 75,000 prize at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club. The field included the highly consistent Hsu Sheng-San, who had won in Malaysia, Indonesia and other places and time and again contended in India but not won. He was leading the Asian Circuit for the year after winning the Thai Open.
The contingent also included two other big Taiwanese names, the 1981 Asian Circuit champion Lu Hsi-Chuen and No. 2 Hsieh Min-Nan. Past Indian Open winners included Kurt Cox, the 1980 Indian Open winner and the 1982 winner in Hong Kong, Gaylord Burrows, the 1979 winner and Brian Jones winner in 1972 and 1977. Also in the field was Denny Hepler, the 1982 Malaysian Open winner. However, the field missed the defending champion Payne Stewart, who was now looking to get onto the US Tour.
Though there were some past champions, the event was by and large dominated by the Asians.
On the last day, Hsu Sheng-san turned in a great performance of four-under 69 to outplay the opposition with none of the top challengers coming under 70. Hsu’s total of 15-under 277 was the best after the course had been re-designed by Peter Thomson.
The win coming on the heels of the Thai Open title and second place in Manila, carried him to the top of the Asian Circuit standings. He also won $ 12,995. Shiruhama, who later won two titles on the official Japan Tour, shot two-under, but he was still three shots adrift in second place and took $ 8,332.
The others faded away in comparison. Kyi Hla Han, now the Chairman of the Asian Tour, was one-under 72 and he was in a four-way tie for third with Lu Hsi-Chuen (73), Hung Wang Neng (76) and Hsieh Min-Nan (73), all of them finished at six-under 286.
Kyi Hla Han, born in 1961, turned professional in 1980 and played on the Asian Circuit and then on Asian Tour from 1995 till 2004. He won 10 titles around the region, including one – Volvo China Open – on the official Asian Tour in 1999. He also topped the Money List on Asian Tour that season. He is now Chairman of Asian Tour. Hsu-Sheng-san was 40 years old when he won the Indian Open after many attempts. That year he also won the Singapore and Thailand Opens and also won the Asian Circuit title for the third time.
The Indian connection
Among the Indian professionals, Basad Ali pipped Rohtas on the last day with a total of 293, while the latter came down to 296. Rohtas had led the race till the third round with 220, but shot a 76 on last day, while Basad Ali, playing in front of his home crowd, added a two-under 71 to his 222 to finish at 293. Behind them was Jamshed, younger brother of Basad. Amongst amateurs Takito Tanaka topped the finishers with a total of 298, while Rajeev Mohta was the leading Indian amateur at 300 followed by Ashok Malik (306).
Takahashi gives Japan long-due second Indian Open champion
Japan, which loves its golf, produced its first Indian Open winner in 1967, when Kenji Hosoishi emerged triumphant. A year later, Hosoishi became the first back-to-back winner of the event. But Japan no winner since then. The foreign participation in the event continued to grow as did the stature of the Indian Open, which was now in its 20th year.
Competitions were more intense and by and large, the quality of golf, too, had improved a great deal. Junichi Takahashi broke a long Japanese drought with a win in sudden-death over American Bob Tway, who a few years later, would hole an amazing shot from the fairway to snatch the USPGA title, the last Major of the year, from luckless Australian legend, Greg Norman. Tway, already on his way to becoming a big name in world golf, was leader by two over Tim Graham.
Tway on the third day rose from sixth to go into the lead with a five-under 67 to get to 209 as against Graham (211) and Takahashi (212). Art Russell, another first round co-leader, had fallen by the wayside with a third round of 77. Into the final day, Tway held sway till the 13th with a two-shot lead. The par-5 14th at the DGC, generally regarded a birdie-hole, saw Tway go into the bunker and Takahashi birdied it, despite going into the bushes. The two-shot swing saw both tied at four-under. Two holes later, they both bogeyed the 16th and ended with a total of three-under 285 each. Hsieh Yu-Shu of Taiwan, who started the day at two-under 214, and five shots behind Tway, had earlier set the clubhouse target at three-under 285 with an eagle on the 14th and a final birdie on the closing 18th. The three-way play-off saw Hsieh, Tway and Takahashi come back with fives on the first play-off hole which was the 18th. They went back to the tee for a second shy.
This time Hsieh and Tway went way off the mark, while Takahashi was in the centre of the fairway. Takahashi calmly went ahead to birdie the hole, while the other two managed only pars leaving the 33-year-old Japanese a winner on the 74th hole. Behind winner Takahashi, there was Tway and Hsieh in tied second, while another Japanese N Kujike (287) was fourth.
Phil Pilling, an Englishman, who had made India his home after coming to Goa for a holiday, had his best Indian Open with a tied fifth place – which could have been much better but for his third round 78. Pilling was one of the four co-leaders with a 68 on first day – the others being Russell, Graham and Hsieh Yu-Shu as 13 players returned sub-par scores on a day when the defending champion, Taiwan’s Hsu Sheng-San with a 74 put himself out of the race.
On the second day, Russell with a 71 went into sole lead one ahead of Pilling and two clear of Hsieh. The third day belonged with Tway, whose 67 gave him a two-shot lead over Graham. Pilling had a poor third day, as did Russell, while on the fourth and final day, it was Graham, who fell apart, as Takahashi held centre stage after outdueling Tway and Hsieh in a thrilling play-off.
The Indian connection
Phil Pilling, whom the Indian golf community considered their own, after his settling down in India, had his best tied fifth place finish with Art Russell and Per Brostedt. Other Indian pros making the cut included Rohtas Singh and Brandon De Souza, who totalled nine-over 297 each.
Ranjit Nanda, who would later become one of India’s very golf course architects and landscapers, won the amateur title with a total 10-0ver 298, while Vikramjit Singh was second. The 1982 Asian Games gold medalist Lakshman Singh and Rajiv Mohta, who won the gold in team event, finished behind them.
Alarcon strikes one for Latin America
Rafael Alarcon of Mexico was hardly a household name when he came to India for the 1984 edition of the Indian Open. Alarcon, 25, had turned pro only two years ago and had recently got married. His newly-wed wife had accompanied him, so in some senses the event was also a honeymoon of sorts for him. And by the end of the week, it called for a great celebration, as Alarcon became the first South American to win the Indian Open.
Till date, he remains the only one. These days Alarcon is better known for being the coach of Women’s world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa. Low scores were the order of the day as the 1984 edition of the Indian Open got underway at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club. Once again the number of entries for the Indian Open overflowed as 172 players entered the tournament.
The field included many of the past champions like defending champion Junichi Takahashi, the 1972 and 1977 champion Brian Jones, who kept coming back to his favourite haunt despite finding Japan hospitable and lucrative, the 1978 winner Bill Brask and the 1982 winner, Hsu Sheng-San were all there. Alarcon (209) went into the fourth and final day with a one-shot lead over Hsu Sheng-san (210) and Brask (211). Barring Alarcon, none of the other contenders were in form on the final day, though some of those behind them did bring in some good cards.
Alarcon seeing his main rivals wither away played sage percentage golf and cut out all risks. He played a steady 70 with minimum fuss and finished at 279 and won by three shots. Alarcon, who had led from the second round, opened the final round with a birdie and added two more on fourth and fifth. A dropped shot on seventh saw him turn in two under. On the back nine, he birdied the 11th,m 16th and 17th, but dropped shots on 14th and 15th to end at 70. Before this win, which was the biggest of his career, Alarcon had modest finishes of 17th in Hong Kong, sixth in Malaysia and 24th in Thai Open.
In the same group, Hsu and Brask fell by the way side, but ahead of them Lai Chung Jen and Richard Cromwell shot identical 69s to come second at 282. Choi Sang-ho of Korea, who continued playing for many years ended fourth at 284 and Jeff Hart was tied fifth with Taiwan’s Hung Weng-Neng, who totaled 285. Jones, who opened with a 65 messed up his second round with a 76 and ended seventh at 287, one behind Art Russell (286). Yet when the gates opened on the first day, it was a little-known but hugely Colombian, Rigoberto Valasquez, who burnt the course with an eight-under 65, but that was quickly matched by Jones the same day.
Alarcon’s round was eventful with two eagles, but the two bogeys on the back nines meant he was only in shared lead. As Lewis and Velasquez faded away on the weekend, Alarcon stayed steady and went on to hang in for a comfortable win by three shots.
The Indian connection
Rajiv Mohta, a member of India’s Asian Games gold medal winning team was the leading amateur at 291, one of the best scores by an amateur at this course.
Efficient Grimes grinds it out in a large field
The Indian Open growing in stature each year saw a record 220 entries, forcing a qualifying round after which 164 players including 19 amateurs teed off at the Delhi Golf Club. The event saw a bunch of Americans and Australians, who were all young and raring to go, as over the next few years they tried to get onto US and European Tours.
There was Rodger Davies of Australia, who in 1987 would finish second to Paul Azinger at the British Open; Danny Briggs of the US, Chris Moody of England, Argentine Eduardo ‘El Gato’ Romero and Dave DeLong of the US. Defending champion, Rafael Alarcon was there and he was just outside top-10. Despite taking a three-shot lead after three days, there were tense moments before Tony Grimes, a Ontario-born Kiwi, who later settled in Arizona, warded off some threats from Briggs and Davies. Grimes was on 208 with the other two at 211.
The final round was off to an explosive start with Briggs landing an eagle, but Grimes replied with a birdie. Grimes benefitted when Davies and Briggs dropped a shot at sixth. Grimes was nine-under and four clear of Briggs at five-under and Davie at four-under. Grimes would now need to crumble for others to make a bid. Grimes added a birdie on eighth to go 10-under, but Davies added to the drama with an eagle on eighth to come to six-under, four behind Grimes.
Grimes and Davies dropped shots on 10th and Grimes gave one more away on 11th. Grimes fought back with a birdie on 13th to get his lead back to four. However, Grimes put his tee shot into the bushes on the 14th, while Davies reached the green in two and was on for an eagle. But Grimes, not only came of the bushes well, but also chipped in for a brilliant and lucky par. Davies managed only a birdie and it was all over.
Grimes finished with a 71 and a total of 279, which bettered the previous record of 284 set by Payne Stewart in 1981. Davies was second at 283, four behind, while Briggs was third. Mitch Thomas of the US was fourth and one behind was Moody, who won 1988 Swiss Open.
Boonchu Ruangkit, born in 1956, tried for a career in kick-boxing, but gave up after being knocked while still young. He hit the first ball on the Asian Tour in 1995 and was the runner-up in Money List that year. He won five titles on Asian Tour, including Thailand Open in 2004 at the age of 47. He joined Champions Tour by topping Q-School in 2007.
The Indian connection
Rohtas Singh was by far the best Indian on view. He had rounds of 71 and 72 on first two days, but it was his 69 on the third day that made him a fair shot for the title. He was four-under 212 after three days and in fourth place behind Grimes (208) and Davies and Briggs (211 each). On the last day, Rohtas crumbled under pressure and shot a 75, but still finished tied fifth at 287.
Phil Pilling was one shot behind at 288 with the final day’s best card of 69. He shared the eighth place with Ruangkit and Hsieh Min-Nan, a fine Taiwanese pro, who despite many top-10s never won the Indian Open. Among amateurs, the best Indian was Uttam Singh Mundy, who would become one of India’s top pros later on. He finished at 302, as the next and Ashok Malik was third at 304.
Lu Hsi-Chuen brings back the Taiwanese might
Though, many accounts suggest that the early days of the Indian Open were a period when the British and Australian golfers dominated the region’s golf, the fact is it was the Taiwanese who were the big force in Asian golf then. From the 1960s running to the 1980s, Taiwan was even called the ‘Asian Golf Kingdom’. Before the arrival of the Asian Tour in 1995, the tournaments strung together as the Asian Circuit, were by and large dominated by the Taiwanese golfers.
That despite the presence of Australians like Peter Thomson and Kel Nagle, both British Open winners, and many others. The Taiwanese may have won the Indian Open only five times – all by different players and all at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club – but there was always a Taiwanese golfer in then top-5 or 10 for most years from the 1960s through the 1980s.
The first world-famous Taiwanese golfer, ‘Mr. Lu’ Liang Huan, who was second to Lee Trevino at the 1971 British Open in Royal Birkdale, was among the players who came to India for the early editions of the Indian Open. Between the mid-1960s and 1980s, Taiwanese golfers won the Asian Circuit title no less than 20 times and there were any number of players, who kept finishing in the top-five all around Asia.
The 1986, the Indian Open turned into a titanic battle between two Taiwanese stars, Lu Hsi-Chuen and Lu Chien-Soon, who had won countless titles in Asia. In the decade of eighties, the duo won the Asian Circuit title five times between them. At Calcutta Lu Hsi-Chien, after many attempts, finally won the title beating Lu Chien-Soon by two shots.
In the third place was Thai, Somasak Srisanga, whose son, Somkiet Srisanga, is now a regular on the Asian Tour. From Day 1, the battle was between the Lu (Hsi-Chuen) and Lu Chien-Soon).
In the period between 1980 and 1989, Lu Hsi-Chuen and Lu Chien-Soon won the Asian Circuit title five times. Hsi-Chuen won in 1980, 1981 and 1986, while Chien-Soon was the No. 1 in 1983 and 1988.
The Indian connection
Basad Ali brought one of India’s best results among professionals with an even par 288 over four days. He began with a 69, which put him in shared second place, but the middle rounds of 75 and 74 set him back before he pulled back with a 70. He ended fifth. The leading amateur was Alan Singh, who totaled 299.
Tennyson wins, but lot of future stars come on stage
The year 1987 saw a lot of young talent from America and Australia. Over the next 15 years or so, they would be talked about a lot with a fair amount success on a bigger stage against their name. From that bunch, there was the 21-year-old Brian Tennyson, whose future success in golf was modest, but he was a big success in business, and was among other things, a partner in the American and later international pizza venture, Papa John’s. Tennyson, who was nowhere in the picture after his first two rounds of 74 and 73, but it was his third day’s stunning seven-under 65 that brought him into contention.
Mike Cunning led at six-under 210 and behind him there were three in second place – first round leader Steve Bowman, Jim Hallet and Greg Bruckner. Tennyson at 212 was fifth as the top-5 were Americans. On the final day, Tennyson started off in style with three birdies that took him to seven-under. Hallet moved to six-under on fifth. But Tennyson went further to eight-under with a birdie on sixth as Cunning, Hallet and Bruckner. Tennyson came back to seven-under on eighth and Hallet caught up with him at the turn.
And then Bruckner moved with three birdies on 11th, 12th and 14th to come to seven-under, but by Hallet had dropped. Tennyson, who had also won the Philippine Open that year, kept his nerve and added a birdie on 15th and then with three pars, finished at eight-under and with it win the title by three shots. Hallet and Cunning finished with 72 and 73 and ended tied second at five-under, while Bruckner dropped to fourth at four-under 284.
Tied at fifth were Bowman, O’Malley, Maggert, Rutledge and Gibson, who like Cunning made Asia his home and settled in Manila with a Filipina wife. Sixteen years later Gibson finish second to Cunning at the 2003 Indian Open, a year after having finished second behind India’s Vijay Kumar. The opening day saw Steve Bowman, who had played the previous two years on GA Tour, take lead with a five-under 67 and behind him at 68 were two players, including Indian amateur David D’Souza & Peter O’Malley.
That year the field included Peter O’Malley, Craig Parry and Peter Fowler of Australia, Jeff Maggert and Mike Cunning of the US. Parry, then 20, had turned pro a year ago, and would later win a WGC event in 2002 and the 2004 Ford Championships on PGA Tour, while Maggert, then 22, was also just one year into pro golf, and he in 1999 would win the WGC Match play event besides two other PGA events and he also finished in top-5 of all Majors at least once at some point between 1995 and 2004.
Cunning, who could not strike it big in US made Asia his home and Hallet, who played Masters as an amateur, later finished second twice on PGA tour, losing play-offs on both occasions in 1991 at Zurich Classic of New Orleans and Buick Challenge in 1990. He also had more than 10 top-10 finishes between 1988 and 1991 consistently finished in top-20.
The Indian connection
India’s top pro after three days was Chini at 215. He added a 73 on final day to finish at 298 in tied 14th place. The top amateur was David D’Souza at 299 and he was followed by Amit Luthra, a chartered Accountant, who was also part of the Indian amateur team that won the Asian Games gold medal in 1982.
Lu Chien-Soon keeps the Taiwanese saga going
Two years earlier, Lu Chien-Soon had faltered at the doorstep of victory at the 1986 Indian Open and allowed his fellow Taiwanese golfer, Lu Hsi-Chien to win the title.
This time around, Chien-Soon, who had won many times elsewhere in Asia, including Singapore and Indonesia (1985) and the Asian Circuit honours in 1983, was determined not to make any mistakes. He was in command through the week and after three rounds, he led by a whopping eight shots. Despite the hiccup of a final round of 75, Chien-Soon totaled 281 and won by five shots over Kirk Triplett (286) of the United States.
Triplett that year also won on the Canadian Tour at the Alberta Open and later between 2000 and 2006 won three times on PGA Tour, with Chrysler Classic of Tucson coming in 2006. He was also member of the President’s Cup team in 2000. Lu Chien Soon, who had tied 29th at 1983 British Open was solid throughout the week. He opened the tournament, which had 157 starters, with two successive rounds of 68 to take a big lead at halfway stage. From thereon, there was no doubt about who was going to win, barring a big collapse.
The Indian connection
Feroz Ali, who had rounds of 76 and 74 on the first two days had virtually shot himself out of contention for a top-10 finish. But rounds of 72 and 71 on the last two days ensured a fine finish. He was 293 and tied for eighth. The leading amateur was Amandeep Johl (304). Later Johl became one of India’s leading pros and also played on Asian Tour. He was also part of the Asian Tour Board for a while.
Steady Bouchard strikes winning blow for Canada
With 25 editions done, the Indian Open at the start of the 26th edition in 1989, could truly call itself an international event of long-standing. Few, if any sporting events, had enjoyed the continuity the Indian Open golf had. Right from the start in 1964, Peter Thomson had ensured a star quotient.
It had stayed, despite some ups and downs over the years. The prize money had risen and so had the stature. Many Australians and Americans not to speak of golfers from Far East had cut their teeth at the Indian Open and gone on to achieve greater heights. In its 26th edition, a relative unknown but a very steady Canadian pro, Remi Bouchard added his name to the roster of winners. Bouchard, born in the same year when Indian Open started – in 1964 – still plays in Quebec with occasional foray into serious professional golf. Now a pro at Le Mirage Club in Quebec, Canada, Bouchard lectures at golf seminars and teaches at the club.
Espinosa had fought his way back with a 71 on third day, but he was still two behind Bouchard, with Canadian Rick Gibson another shot behind at 212. Espinosa gave Bouchard a tough fight on the final day, despite playing a group ahead. He compiled a 69 with a couple of crucial birdies on the back nine, as became the clubhouse leader 280.
Playing with Rusnak and Bruckner, Bouchard was calm as he saw his playing partners collapse. Bruckner and Rusnak were needlessly aggressive on the dangerous DGC layout and under pressure gave away far too many strokes. Bruckner (76) and Bowman (72) ended distant third 286, while Rusnak (77) ended tied fifth at 287. Bouchard stayed the course and came back with a steady 70 that gave him a one-shot win over Espinosa, who waited in the clubhouse to see if he could get into play-off. Bouchard gave no chance.
The Indian connection
Ajay Gupta was the top Indian professional, while Alan Singh (299) was the leading amateur.
Little-known rookie Debusk holds nerve on back nine
The field did have big names, but not in same numbers as in some of the previous years or the ones to come. Still the overall numbers were big with 182 entries, including 19 amateurs, from 19 countries who teed off at the par-72 Royal Calcutta Golf Club for the 1990 Indian Open.
The prize money had gone up to $ 120,000 as many of the players who flocked to Asia and India nursed ambitions of making it on the European and US PGA Tours. Returning to the Indian Open after a gap was the 41-year-old veteran Stewart Ginn, who had often come close – notably in 1973 in Delhi, when he was second – but never won. Add to this the tough weather conditions as rains and humidity led to high scores. In such conditions circumstances, it was a little-known Texan, Andrew Debusk, who ran away with the honours.
A steady display ended with a distance of six shots between him and the second placed Mexican Carlos Espinosa, who for the second year in succession ended in second place. Debusk put together an even par 288, and was the only player not to go over par for the week.
A year earlier in Delhi, Espinosa had opened with a stunning 65, but this time around, he started with a dismal 77. With scores not very low, Espinosa clawed his way back over the next three days and ended with a 69 to finish at 294 in second place. Aaron Meeks, a regular in Asia for many years, ended third at 295.
The Indian Open win was one of the high points of Debusk’s golfing career as he picked up $ 19,992 as his winner’s cheque. Espinosa, runner-up a year earlier to Canadian Remi Bouchard in Delhi, was 24th after the last two rounds, he rose to tied second. Ginn (296) once again failed to win as he ended in a tie for fifth with three others including Gilligan, the half-way leader.
The Indian connection
Basad Ali shot an even par 73 on final day and ended at three-over 295 for a share of third place alongside Aaron Meeks. Feroze, tied ninth after third round with Basad, faded away on the last day. In the amateur section, Vivek Bhandari upstaged better known amateur stars like ‘Bunny’ Lakshman Singh, the 1982 Asian Games gold medalist, to emerge as the amateur winner with a total of eight-over 300, five better than Lakshman.
Bhandari is the son of former Test cricketer, Prakash Bhandari, who later became President of Indian Golf Union. Later Bhandari would become one of the promising professionals in Indian golf, before injuries came in the way.
Ali Sher dreams big and scripts history for Indian golf
The Indian Open by now was an established event. The leading players on the Asian Circuit ensured that it formed a part of their annual schedule. In the period that India became a regular stop for all those trying to make a mark in Asia, while dreaming of bigger Tours in US and Europe, Indians did make their presence felt, but were never serious challengers for the title.
When the Indian Open came to Delhi Golf Club in 1991, a full 25 years had elapsed since Billoo Sethi had topped the tournament. Though he finished ahead of the whole field, which included defending champion and then four times British Open winner Peter Thomson (who later added a fifth British Open), Sethi was still only an amateur. Therefore expectations in 1991 were not really high. A good top-10 would have been enough to satisfy the fans at the DGC.
Yet, when the dust settled after four days, a new legend in Indian golf had been born. Ali Sher became the first Indian professional to win the Indian Open and it stunned not only the strong field, but also the members at the DGC.
A caddie since his early teens – he cannot remember since when – Ali took being an ‘aggewallah’ (forecaddie) and later a full caddie to support his family, which had lost the main breadwinner – Ali’s father early in his life.
When play started on the final day, Todd Hamilton, who would go on to become one of the biggest surprise winners at a major in 2004 British Open, shared the lead with Wang Ter-chang of Chinese Taipei at five-under 211. The two did lead, but by no means were they way ahead, as just one shot separated them from Ali Sher and Sri Lanka’s Nandasena Perrera, who were one behind at 212. Another shot further back were Rick Gibson, leader on the Asian Circuit, and Basad Ali at 213. Ali Sher had a poor start with bogeys on third and fourth and from four-under, he was now only two-under. Amongst his main rivals, Hamilton had dropped a stroke to come to four-under, while Basad picked up a stroke to join him there and Gibson stayed at three-under. But the leaders at that stage were Perrera and Wang Ter-chang led the field at five-under.
Over the next five holes, Basad, Perrera and Gibson succumbed to pressure and dropped shots in a hurry and went out of contention long before the end. Basad lost four strokes over the next five holes. Basad and Gibson ended at one-under 287. Perrera, playing with Hamilton and Wang, too, felt the heat and dropped quickly from five-under for the tournament after five holes on final day, to finish at even par 288.
Hamilton and Wang were in the last group and Ali Sher one ahead and they were the ones left in the running. Hamilton after dropping a few shots earlier, hauled himself back into contention with a birdie on the 15th to come to three under. Wang missed his birdie and stayed at four-under as did Ali Sher.
The next two holes produced pars for the contenders. On the 18th tee Ali was at four-under, as Wang, who was just completing the 17th with Hamilton, who was at three-under. On the 18th with tension mounting, even as the galleries gasped, Ali Sher bravely took out his driver and smashed one down the centre of the fairway. His approach, another fine shot, landed three feet from the edge of the green. After a brief look at the lie, Ali Sher took out his putter and went for the cup. His ball stopped two feet short for a tap-in birdie, which sent the crowd in raptures.
Behind them Hamilton and Wang could make out Ali had birdied the 18th to five-under. Hamilton now needed an eagle and Wang a birdie to stay with Ali.
Hamilton, too, made a brave effort but he managed only a birdie, while Wang messed his chip and left himself an 20-footer for a birdie to tie with Ali. He missed and seconds later, Ali Sher, standing close by was besieged by his caddie friends and members as the first Indian Professional to win the Indian Open.
As Ali Sher topped the field for his $ 24,990 prize at five-under 283, Hamilton and Wang tied for second at 284. Basad, Perrera and Bill Israelson, who briefly played on US Tour were tied for fourth at 287. Israelson is now a coach in Minnesota.
Wang at 47 continues to play the Asian Tour and in 2005 he won the Macau Open and the Brunei open the following year.
Velasquez and Lesher tied for seventh with Perrera at even par 288.
When the tournament began, many of the foreigners complained that the course was rather tough with the famed bushes penalising them heavily.
But still the field was big, a total of 167 from 22 countries teed up.
The opening round saw Gregory Lesher shoot a six-under 66 with six birdies and an eagle against two bogeys. Lesher, 23, had turned pro only a year earlier and in 1989, he played the Walker Cup alongside Phil Mickelson on the US team. A shot behind Lesher was Gerry Norquist, an American who spent most of his time playing in Asia, and Ken Mattiace, who later played the PGA Tour was on 68. Ali Sher shot 72.
On second day, Ali Sher sparkled withj a five-under 67, which included a hole-in-one on the par-3 seventh hole. But going one better than Ali was Hamilton, who carded a bogey-free 66 to make up for his first round 75. Ali led at halfway stage at 138 and one behind at 139 was Colombian Rigoberto Velasquez, who went on to represent his country in seven World Cups and now plays on Champions Tour.
The third round is generally when the top contenders make their move, but in this case Ali Sher fell back with a 74. Unable to maintain the consistency that had been his hallmark in first two rounds, Ali Sher gave up his lead. Hamilton and Wang Ter-chang took over at five-under 211 with 70 and 68 respectively. Ali Sher was tied third with Perrera one shot behind.
But on the final day, Ali Sher delivered when it mattered most at the end and his brave birdie on the 18th confirmed that it beyond doubt that Ali was indeed the ‘Tiger’.
Vikramjit Singh was the leading amateur at 294.
Ali Sher was invited for the $ 700,000 Dunlop Phoenix tournament in Japan following his win in the Indian Open. With DCM and Air India sponsoring him, Ali went for the event and shot rounds of 73, 70, 73 and 72 to finished tied 53rd and earn 422,000 yen. The tournament was won by Australian pro Roger Mackay, who died in 2002 at very young age of 46. The legendary Seve Ballesteros was third.
Ali Sher is the only Indian to have shot a hole-in-one during the course of his title win at the Indian Open. None of the other Indian champions managed it and those did have an ace never won the title the same year.
A grin at last on Stewart Ginn’s face
There was tremendous interest in the 1992 Indian Open. More than ever before. With Ali Sher having broken through the barrier for Indian professionals, there were real expectations. Ginn, a long-time regular from Australia, had on more than a few occasions come close to the Indian Open title, but always stopped just that bit short.
A global golfer like many other Australians including Peter Thomson, Ginn liked playing in different countries and Tours. But India, he himself admitted once, was among his favourite places which is probably why he came so often despite not winning. Finally that long wait ended in 1992 at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club.
The year also a young amateur by the name of Jyoti Randhawa, who in the years to come would become one of the legends of Indian Open. He topped the amateur section.
The field included defending champion Ali Sher besides Feroze Ali and Basad Ali, who had finished in top-10 in the part. The foreign challenge included Aaron Meeks, third in 1990, Greg Bruckner, who had been knocking at the door last few years, Scott Taylor another strong contender and American pro Bill Israelson, again a regular now.
The final day saw Ginn hang in with a 73 as he cut down the risks when a win seemed his for the taking. Taylor playing with Ginn dropped too many shots for his 76, while Meeks despite his 70 left it till too late. Feroze managed only a 72.
Ginn came through the test with a total of four-under 284 for his maiden win at the Indian Open after more than 10 years of trying. Meeks ended one place better than 1990, but still second at 286.
Taylor and Feroze Ali tied for third at 289 and Bruckner was fifth at 290. Sri Lankan professional, Nandasena Perrera, tied for sixth with Israelson. Ginn, who born a stone’s throw from the Royal Melbourne Golf Club in 1949 and came into golf as a caddie at the age of 10, had also won titles on Australian Tour besides one each on European and Japanese Tours.
Jyoti Randhawa, who was the top amateur turned professional soon after representing India at the 1994 Asian Games in Hiroshima. He went on to become one of the most successful golfers on Asian Tour, winning the Order of Merit in 2002. He also won Indian Open three times in 2000, 2006 and 2007.
The Indian connection
Feroze Ali, who had raised hopes of an Indian win for the second year running, fell short and ended in tie for third with Scott Taylor at one-over 289. The second round of 77 proved costly for him. Among amateurs, Randhawa began his love affair with the Indian Open by taking the amateur honours totaling 295. Eight years later he won his first Indian Open.
Ali Sher scripts history for India with a repeat win
Ali Sher’s win two years earlier at the Delhi Golf Club sparked off unprecedented interest in the Indian Open, when it came back to the Delhi Golf Club in 1993. He did the unthinkable and won the title yet again, becoming the first repeat winner from India. In his own words, it also showed that his first win was no fluke.
A year after Ali Sher’s win, Feroze was the toast in Kolkata, but he missed out on the title as he finished third and Australian Stewart Ginn won the title. The field was strong enough with American Brian Watts, a hugely successful golfer on Japan Tour besides Eric Meeks and young guns like Kawika Kotner and Mark Wurtz, also both from the US. Also around was Chinese Taipei’s Wang Ter-chang, who lost narrowly to Ali Sher the previous year, Canadian Jim Rutledge and Mexican Carlos Espinosa, who had twice finished second in 1989 and 1990.
From India’s standpoint, the best hopes lay with Ali Sher and Feroze Ali. Like two years ago, Ali was not leading while going into the final round. He was a shot behind Watts, the Hong Kong Open winner that year. A NCAA Division I winner in 1987, Watts after turning pro came to Asia for a few years from where he moved to Japan Tour.
The man, who kick-started the tournament in style was Thai Boonchu Ruangkit, a kick-boxer turned golfer, who in 1985 had finished as the top amateur. He shot a four-under 68 for the lead.
Despite the horrendous third round, Watts was still leading the field at 216, while Ali Sher and Eric Meeks, whose twin Aaron also played in India, were right behind him at 217. Feroze, Espinosa and Mark Wurtz were at 218, setting up a tense battle for the final day.
For the first nine holes of the final day, the lead kept moving between Watts and Meeks, who started off steadily. But Ali Sher was always within striking distance as was Feroze Ali.
While the spectators seemed to be concentrating on the top guys, American Kawika Kotner was making a big charge with five birdies against just one bogey on the front nine. Starting six behind Watts the leader, Kotner was suddenly in the mix.
Watts lost his lead on the front nine. He bogeyed the seventh and then Meeks too dropped a shot there, leaving Ali Sher in lead.
On the back nine, surprise package Kotner birdied the tenth and then the 14th to go into lead, ahead of Ali Sher. However Kotner bogeyed the two holes to give back the lead to Ali Sher.
As almost all others made small mistakes in the closing stages, Ali Sher played steady on the back nine. After finding birdies on the tenth and 11th, he parred the last six holes to register a final round of 71 and end at even-par 288.
Feroze, who had chances till the very end was unable to grab them and with a card of 71, he ended second to Ali Sher. The difference was just one shot and it left Feroze, who was third the previous year, very upset and disappointed at having come so close and then not making it. Cotner and Watts tied for third at 290, while Meeks and Wurtz tied for fifth at 291 and Espinosa was tied seventh at 292. Amit Luthra continuing to stay amateur, even 11 years after his Asian Games gold medal in team championships, was once again the top amateur. He totaled 300 and ended one stroke ahead of Jyoti Randhawa.
Steady Emlyn Aubrey outduels a classy field
A year after Ali Sher repeated his success of 1991 and became the first Indian to win the Indian Open twice, Indians had begun to approach the tournament with a different mindset – one of winning, instead of merely doing well in it. Amidst the presence of a fairly strong field, Emlyn Aubrey, a little known American grabbed the title despite a third day disaster of 76. His back nine with four birdies on the final day tilted the scales in his favour.
The focus was on the Indians, who had a good number of contenders like Ali Sher, locals Feroze Ali and Basad Ali, Jeev Milkha Singh, Gaurav Ghei and Rohtas Singh among others. The foreign challenge included 28-year-old Brandt Jobe, winner of the Thailand Open, and who would go on to hit the world’s top-50 in a decade’s time.
There was also Steve Flesch, who after winning the Asian Order of Merit three times in 1993, 1994 and 1996 went on to become 1998 US Tour Rookie and later won four times on PGA Tour including twice in 2007. Flesch finished fifth at the Masters and sixth at the PGA Championships in 2008. Scott Frisch, then 26, later played in Japan and briefly on US Tour, as did Lee Porter who was on PGA Tour through late 1990s to 2002-03.
The charismatic Paraguayan Carlo Franco, another global player with successes in Asia, Japan and South America is now on US Tour having won four times there.
Other major foreign contenders included Mike Tschetter of the US, Pedro Martinez of Paraguay and Canadian Rick Todd. Aubrey opened with a 69, one of the very few sub-70 scores on the first day alongside local professional Ramnath and Korean Kim Young-Il.
Aubrey was the star of the final nine. He found four birdies and when he came to the 18th, he was four-under and leading the tournament by two. He could afford the luxury of a bogey on the 18th and still win by one.
The Indian connection
As the top names Ali Sher, Basad Ali, Jeev MIlkha Singh, Rohtas and others missed the halfway, Gaurav Ghei, who had three straight rounds of 73 and a final round of 70 was tied seventh at 289, along with Flesch, Tschetter and Rick Todd. Local player Ramnath shot five-over 293 and was the best caddie-pro. Amongst amateurs, Arjun Singh finished ahead of Amit Luthra despite similar score of 304. Arjun was adjudged winner on the basis of final 18 holes. Harmeet Kahlon was third at 311 with Lakshman Singh.
Patience pays rich dividends for Rutledge
Patience may well be Jim Rutledge’s middle name. The Canadian who won his country’s junior national title in 1975 at the age of 16, turned professional in 1978, when just 19. But it was not until 2007, when he was 48 years old, that he finally made it to the PGA Tour.
Though Rutledge stood out as a junior, things came slowly to him when he turned professional. It was after more than seven years in Asia that he won the Indian Open. The field in 1995 included a few names that would in time become star players. There was Bob May of the US, who played the Walker Cup in 1991 before turning pro at the age of 23. Also in the field was Daniel Chopra, who learnt his golf at the Delhi Golf Club, but in 1992 took up the citizenship of Sweden, from where his mother hailed. His father was English. Chopra, a regular on PGA Tour, has won twice on the Tour, including Mercedes Benz Championships in 2008. Indian players, too, were no longer there to make up numbers.
As the subsequent days would show, Indians were very much in contention for the title. Rutledge was consistent, throughout the week, though his third round of 74 did open up things for a while. He started with a 69 and then added a 69 on second day to become the clear leader. There was a time after the third round, it seemed that Basad Ali, the leader after 54 holes might pull it off. Basad after rounds of 72 and 70 had a flawless bogey-free 69 on the third day, when Rutledge went to 74. The Indian was five-under 211 to Rutledge’s four-under 212. Ghei and Chopra were at 216 as an Indian challenge on the final day looked imminent.
A shot behind them was Eric Meeks, who was now a regular in India, and had finished second in 1992. On the final day, the six-foot-four tall Rutledge was back in form. He played aggressive golf and went for the pins. Basad began with a bogey and Rutledge playing alongside started with a birdie and immediately that two-shot swing put the Canadian in lead. Basad dropped another shot on the re-laid ninth green and ended with a 74 and went to 285, which gave him tied fourth.
Rutledge went about his business of collecting birdies, of which he had four by the end of the day. He dropped on bogey and ended with a 68 that made him a comfortable winner at 280. Luck, too, played a big part as Rutledge could have come under pressure, when his tee shot on the 17th went into the trees, but it hit a trunk and re-bounded on to the green for a neat tap-in.
Chopra, then just 22, but already marked out as a player of great promise and who already had dreams of playing and winning on the PGA Tour, also shot a 68. May, who had a 69 on the third day, added a 67 to tie with Chopra in second place, but four behind Rutledge. Ghei, Basad and Rick Todd (69) came in tied fourth at 285. In an eventful tournament Mike Cunning called a penalty on himself for submitting a wrong scorecard and was disqualified, while Ghei picked five shots on last five holes, including an ace on the par-3 17th.
In 2007, Jim Rutledge at 48 became the second oldest Rookie on the PGA Tour, as he came through the Qualifying School. His victory at the ING New Zealand PGA Championships, a co-sanctioned event with the Nationwide Tour played a role in his making the PGA Tour card.
In 2000, Bob May lost an epic play-off to Tiger Woods at the PGA Championships at Valhalla, where the US beat Europe in the 2008 Ryder Cup. He finished second twice more on US Tour, but won the 1999 British Masters.
The Indian connection
Basad Ali looked set to emulate Billoo Sethi and Ali Sher, as he led by a shot after three rounds. He shot 74 on final dayand was overtaken by the eventual winner Jim Rutledge. Also overtaking him were Bob May and Indo-Swede Daniel Chopra. Basad was tied fourth. with Gaurav Ghei, who made a great effort on the back nine for a final round of 69. Jyoti Randhawa was 11th and Ali Sher was tied 12th. The 1982 Asian Games team gold medallist Amit Luthra was the top amateur.
Shirakata breaks a long Japanese drought
The 1990s was really the decade Indian golf found its own identity. Till then, Indian golfers looked at their foreign adversaries in awe. That may well have changed the moment Ali Sher beat the Indian Open field not once but twice at the Indian Open in 1991 and 1993. The mindset changed from that point.
Over the next few years, India had Basad Ali, Feroze Ali and Gaurav Ghei contending for titles. Also Jeev Milkha Singh had won on the Asian Tour outside India. Indians regularly finished in top-10 and Ghei beat a classy field in the Gadgil Western Masters to win the Asian Tour event in India in 1995. Right behind Ghei was another Indian Vijay Kumar in second place. Over the next few years, the number of Indian contenders increased with the arrival of players Jyoti Randhawa, Arjun Atwal and others.
In this kind of situation, each the annual Indian Open brought with it a kind of excitement for Indian golf. Randhawa, a new pro on the block, had already shown his liking for home conditions in less than two years as pro. The previous year in his first appearance as a pro Randhawa had finished 11th.
The 1996 edition saw the return of defending champion Jim Rutledge, Bob May and Daniel Chopra, who had tied for second, American pro Don Walsworth, son of a publishing tycoon, Mike Tschetter and Indian stars, Basad Ali, Jeev Milkha Singh, Feroze Ali, Arjun Atwal and Randhawa among others.
On the final day, Shirakata (70) held on and Chopra (70) was unable to close in Shirakata finished at 11-under 277, and Chopra at 280. Ahead of them, Basad and Randhawa with rounds of 69 each had finished at eight-under 280 and Chopra joined them in a tie for second. Walsworth ended at 283 in fifth place and in tied sixth as Atwal with a final round of 70 and total 285.
Tied with Atwal were six others including Arjun Singh, Bob May and Tschetter. Rutledge finished outside top-10 at two-under 286. The leading amateur was Amit Luthra at 303 Hidezumi Shirakata, born on September 6, 1966, was the third Japanese to win the Indian Open. He followed Kenji Hosoishi (1967 and 1968) and Junichi Takahashi (1983). It was Shirakata’s biggest win though he later added two titles from Kyushu Open (2003 and 2006) and one from NST Niigata (2000) in Japan.
The Indian connection
Though Japan’s Hidezumi Shirakata won, tied for the second place was Basad Ali, who once again experienced the feeling of so near and yet so far. He was tied for second with Jyoti Randhawa and Daniel Chopra, who came second for the second straight year. Amit Luthra was once again the top amateur.
English-born, Las Vegas resident Fryatt wins Indian Open
It is hard to place Ed Fryatt’s nationality. Fryatt was born in Rochdale, England but by the time he was four, he had shifted to Las Vegas, which is where he has been since. And he has played golf all over the world. No European had won the Indian Open till 1997 and if Fryatt was considered American, then the record stays to-date. In 2000, soon after his first round at the PGA Championships, where he shot a 69 (he later shot a 79 in second and missed the cut), Fryatt admitted in an interview, “I was born in England and I have grown up all my life for the most part in Las Vegas, Nevada. I grew up in English heritage with my parents and the food and the thoughts of being English. I am in a difficult situation because my heart is definitely with England, even though I haven’t been there much of my life. But my golf game is definitely American.
So, I am in a difficult situation where I feel British, but I know that I owe everything that I am with golf to the United States, and Las Vegas, in particular.” That sums up Fryatt, who is yet another global golfer, who played all over but found a lot of success in Asia. Four of his five titles came in Asia, including the Indian Open of 1997. The year 1997 was held amidst a tussle between the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC) and the newly formed Asian PGA. The Indians undecided first ultimately went with APGA, which became the apex profssional body in Asia.
The tournament stayed in Calcutta as Delhi government had banned all cigarette and tobacco-related advertising and ITC Classic, the sponsors of Indian Open were seen as such. So the event stayed in Calcutta till 2000 when it came to Gurgaon’s Classic Golf Resort. The 1997 field included defending champion Hidezumi Shirakata, American Gary Rusnak and Paraguayan Pedro Martinez, who had played here before, Dean Wilson, who would later make a name for himself on PGA Tour, and Christian Pena, who played on PGA and Nationwide tours.
The 26-year-old Fryatt, who had been a pro for three years, gave the tournament an electric start with a course and tournament record breaking round of nine-under 63. On the final day Pena was 10 shots behind at 209 and Rusnak 12 behind at 211. Yet, Fryatt was cautious, unlike previous three days. He was even par for front nine and on the back nine, he bogeyed 10th and 11th, but picked a birdie later to finish at 73 for a record 16-under 272. Rusnak (67) came from behind to jump to second at 278, while Pena (70) was third at 279. Dean Wilson ended fourth at 280 and Martinez (75) finished fifth at 281.
Defending champion Shirakata finished seventh at 284. Wilson later won the International on PGA Tour in 2006 and six titles in Japan. In 2008 he has had two third-place finishes on PGA Tour.
After winning the Indian Open, Ed Fryatt also made the US Open in 1997. Interestingly he was fine a stroke for slow play in the second, though he went on to finish 24th. His slow play evoked comparisons with his father, Jim, who played pro football in England and set the record for quickest goal from kick-off – a mere four seconds for Bradford Park and Tranmere in 1964, seven years before Ed was born.
In 2000 Fryatt equaled a PGA Tour record of eight consecutive birdies at the Doral-Ryder Open during his second round of 69. Fryatt ended ninth in the event. It was one of the five top-10 finishes he had on PGA Tour that year.
The Indian connection
There were no Indians in top-10 for the first time since 1989. Vivek Bhandari was the best at one-under 287 in tied 18th after starting the final day at four-under 212. Basad, who started the day with Shirakata and Wilson ended with a 75 and a total of 288. Jeev Milkha Singh, of whom a lot was expected ended 53rd as poor form continued to follow him. The leading amateur was Harmeet Kahlon at 289, which included a 68 on first day.
Sleepless Feroze finds joy at last at Indian Open
Feroze Ali once confessed that the day he lost the 1993 Indian Open to Ali Sher by a single stroke, he could not sleep the whole night. But neither could he sleep on the eve of the final round of the 1998 Indian Open, even though he held a three-shot lead into the final round. But once the job was complete on Sunday, he again wouldn’t find sleep easy for so excited was he with his maiden Asian Tour win.
Warding off the tension, Feroze logged 14-under 274, way ahead of his nearest rival Dean Wilson (279) to pick up the biggest pay cheque of his career. Quite rightly, it came at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club. When in Kolkata, there has hardly been a day he has not played a round at RCGC. The win made him the third Indian to claim the Indian Open after Billoo Sethi – as an amateur in 1965 – and Ali Sher, who won in 1991 and 1993.
On the final morning, the pressure showed, as Feroze, discarding his normal aggressive game played safe. Instead of using a 3-wood for the first tee, he used a 2-iron iron. When play had ended on Day Three, Hawaii-born Dean Wilson – who later played extensively in Japan and PGA Tour – was on fire. He had was four-under for last four holes, including an eagle.
When the fourth round began, another American Scott Rowe seemed to turn on the heat. Rowe had two birdies on the first two and barely missed a third while managed only pars. Wilson birdied the third. At that stage of the final round with 15 more holes, Feroze was 12-under and the other two were at 10-under. On the fourth hole, Feroze went into the rough but was lucky to get a club length’s relief. But he was disturbed when his caddie stepped in playing partner’s putting line – Feroze apologised on his behalf.
The net result: Feroze dropped a stroke and Wilson was just one behind. The first turning point came on the sixth. Feroze went into the left bunker off the tee, but managed to get to the green with the third. Wilson missed a four-foot putt for par and dropped a stroke. Feroze sunk a 10-foot downhill putt for par. ”It was a difficult putt, but that gave me confidence,” said Feroze later.
The eventful seventh was a nightmare but it possibly decided the title. Feroze went into the tank with his tee shot, came out well and then chipped from 15-feet only to see it stop one foot short. Bogey for Feroze. Wilson went behind a tree from the tee, hit into the wall to get the ball to rebound onto the fairway and with a good chip managed to escape with a bogey.
Rowe escaped the tank but overshot the green and ended with a double bogey, after playing 50 holes without a bogey. But now he was out of contention. Feroze birdied the ninth with a 20-foot putt, and was now two ahead of Wilson and three ahead of Rowe.
Then followed a birdie on 11th with another 20-footer and another great 25-foot putt on 14th and a final birdie on the 15th from three feet after a brilliant pitch saw Feroze home dry. He ended a comfortable five shots ahead and suddenly all the tension and tiredness went away as he was hoisted on the shoulders by fellow golfers and caddies at the RCGC. A new champion had been crowned. Behind Feroze, were Wilson in second and Kyung-Choi (280) in third. Scott Rowe, who went a 50-hole stretch without a bogey 50 holes without a bogey till the seventh on the final day dropped a double on it, but ended tied sixth with defending champion Ed Fryatt.
The 1995 champion Jim Rutledge was 11th while veteran Carlos Espinosa, twice runner-up in 1989 and 1990, and upcoming Korean Charlie Wi, were tied for 19th with Tim Straub at 286. Ted Purdy was tied 22nd with Arjun Atwal and Shaun Micheel, who would win the 2003 PGA Championships.
The tournament missed Jeev Milkha Singh, the only Indian on the European Tour, but still the field was strong with enough star material. The field included three men who between them had won each of the Indian Opens in the odd years of this decade – Ali Sher in 1991 and 1993; Rutledge in 1995 and 1997 winner Fryatt.
Three weeks earlier Fryatt won the Malaysian Open beating Ryder Cup hero Lee Westwood. Also in the field were Gaurav Ghei, winner of the 1995 Gadgil Western Masters, and Ted Purdy, champion at the 1997 Hero Honda Masters. The fifth, sixth and seventh greens had been re-laid and Feroze and Mike Cunning were among those who had not played on it, since they came straight from Myanmar and Bangkok, where they played the previous two weeks.
One of the enduring stars of the Asian Tour Cunning took the honours with a six-under 66 on the rain-hit opening day, when Feroze Ali was the only Indian in the top 10 with a 69. Later Cunning faded away in the tournament. Defending champion Fryatt had a one under, as did Kanwar Sekhon the third best Indian. In the second round, Tim Straub, a former-US junior champion in 1983, was one-under after 10 when play was suspended on the first day, completed his first round in 67 and then shot a 70 for the second to take a share of second round lead with Feroze at 137.
But Straub dropped to five-under 211 with a third round 74. Among the Indians missing the cut were Jyoti Randhawa, Ali Sher, Vivek Bhandari and Mukesh Kumar. On the third day, with four holes to go Feroze seemed to be running away with the tournament. He was 13-under for the tournament, and he was leading his nearest rival Wilson by seven shots.
But then Wilson made a dramatic charge and brought down the gap between to three. As Feroze came down to 12-under, the 1997 Asian Tour Rookie of the Year, Wilson hit a 3-wood to three feet for an eagle on the 15th and birdied the 17th and 18th to come to 207, as against Feroze’s 204. In the third place at 208 with a card of 67 was Scott Rowe, a 23-year-old Puerto-Rico-born Hong-Kong-based American, who was also a former Canadian junior swimming champion.
At 209 was Kyung-Ju Choi, who over the next few years would become the top Asian in the world and a regular on PGA Tour, where he even reached top-10 in world rankings for a brief period.
The third round also saw Rick Todd’s 64 with two eagles for the best card of the week. After Feroze Ali, it was Arjun Singh as the second best Indian at 215 for 54 holes. Arjun Atwal, who looked good after two rounds at 140, went to 76 and dropped to even par 216 for three days. On the final, Feroze after initial tension held his own to finally win the Indian Open in his own backyard.
A future star in the field was powerlifter turned golfer, Kyung-Ju Choi of Korea. Choi finished third. Later on he went to play on US PGA Tour with great success. He has now won seven PGA Tour titles. The seventh one was the 2008 Sony Open and he donated $ 320,000 of his winnings to families of the victims who died in the warehouse fire in Seoul, which killed 40 people.
Atwal, Chowrasia make it a double delight for India
Arjun Atwal and Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia were so different and yet so alike in their biggest moment. Together Atwal, who shed his ‘nearly man’ tag to become only the third Indian pro to win the Indian Open, and Chowrasia, who learnt how to dream only the night before, gave Calcutta and the RCGC lots to cheer.
Both had taken the first steps in the sport at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club course. But one is from the posh Alipore area and the other virtually grew up inside the RCGC Compound. One’s father is an avid fan following his son with religious beads in his hands and other’s father a greens keeper at the RCGC, who was at the club following his son’s fortunes. Atwal won exactly a year after another one of Calcutta’s great golfing sons, Feroze Ali, had set the same course ablaze. “My aim is the US Tour,” he said even then.
After winning on the European Tour a few years later, he went on to make it to the US tour, too, where he plays currently. Equally elated was Chowrasia, who said the second place was beyond his wildest dreams. Years on, they would become bigger as he won on European Tour in 2008.
On the third day, even though the buzz was all about Laycock’s course record equaling 63, Atwal, was steadily moving into sole lead and setting up the stage for an Indian party. Laycock, who had two eagles and six birdies during the day came to the 17th tee at 10-under for the day. But then a par and a bogey on 18th, saw the Australian card a nine-under 63, which saw him take the fast elevator from 38th place after second round to joint third place after 54 holes.
Atwal, a good friend of Laycock, who in 2008 was still playing on Nationwide after a stint on the PGA Tour, came back with a six-under, which put him at 10-under for 54 holes, and a clear leader by three strokes as RCGC got ready to welcome its second home-bred winner.
Three behind Atwal at 209 was the lanky Korean Kang Wook-Soon, the 1998 Asian PGA leader, while Laycock, Scott Rowe of Hong Kong and David Gleeson were at 210. Chowrasia was at 211 with rounds of 71, 72 and 68.
When it came to the final day, Atwal admitted to being nervous in front of his home crowd, for more than once before he had come close to winning but not been able to seal the deal. On the first he hit a poor second shot and then left his chip short to make an 18-foot putt to save par. He did. Aiming to sit pretty on the three-stroke lead he began with, he did manage a birdie on the third to move to 11-under. Not too comfortable with his swing on final day, Atwal had another tense moment on the seventh, which was the last hole he bogeyed in the tournament on the second day.
His tee shot hit a tree and came into the rough and luckily, did not roll into the dreaded water tank. Par saved, but just. Then on the 14th, after another poor tee shot, he drew a pitching wedge shot through a narrow path and landed just short of the green. Another par saved.
Then on the par-five 15th, where there is an eagle possibility – he himself had one on third day – Atwal almost dropped a stroke. Once again he survived for a par. He got his second birdie of the day on the 17th, which he attacked from the tee itself. A final par and he closed with a 70 for a total of 12-under 276 and a comfortable four shots clear of Chowrasia and Prayad Marksaeng, both at 280. Chowrasia, with a 69, was in a three-way for second with Kang Wook-Soon (71) and Marksaeng (68).
Laycock was tied fifth with Scott Rowe and Thai Thammannoon Sriroj at 281, while Eric Meeks, whose twin Aaron also played, finished tied eighth. The opening day saw the fierceness of the early summer as temperatures hovered around 38 degrees Celsius throughout the day. The heat was relentless and the humidity as high as in peak summer. Despite that the opening day did produce its share of excitement. Scotsman Simon Yates, who has made Thailand his home, returned the best score at four under 68, with Kang Wook-Song and Americans Aaron Meeks and Scott Taylor sharing second spot with three under 69. The Indian challenge received a jolt when Vijay Kumar pulled out after four holes owing to a shoulder injury.
Jyoti Randhawa, one of the contenders here, brought in a two under 70 including a chip-in from a difficult lie straight into the hole on seventh. Gaurav Ghei, Balbir Singh and SSP Chowrasia at 71. Atwal began with a modest 72, as did Ali Sher but defending champion Feroz Ali went one over at 73 despite an eagle on fourth. Gleeson, a 32-year-old Australian who came through the Qualifying School that year and Kang shared the midway at five under despite tough pin positions.
Atwal, recovering from four missed cuts in Australia before coming to the Indian Open, added a 68 to his first round 70 to move up to third with Myanmar’s Kyi Hla Han, the future Chairman of Asian Tour.
Randhawa egging himself on fought the course despite two penalty drops and an eagle on front nine of 39, finished with a 75 and made the cut. Later he ended tied 25th with contrasting weekend rounds of 76 and 69.
Feroz Ali joined the dubious group of defending champions missing the cut the following year. But Basad Ali, who in the early part of the decade finished in top-five more than once, made the cut and then hung in for tied 17th as the next best after fellow Cacluttans Atwal and Chowrasia.
The third day belonged to Laycock, who missed a new course record by one with a 18th hole bogey, nevertheless equaled it with 63, set by Ed Fryatt in 1997. Laycock had two eagles and six birdies and one bogey. On the final day, the spotlight was all on the Calcutta duo, Atwal and Chowrasia and they did not disappoint.
Nine years later, Atwal and Chowrasia would win European Tour events within weeks of each other. Chowrasia won the first 2008 European Tour event in India at Emaar-MGF Indian Masters and a cheque of over $ 410,000 soon after Atwal won the Malaysian Open a second time.
Former India cricket captain, Kapil Dev shot rounds of 85, 82, 81 and 82 to finish 71st as even the six amateurs who missed the cut line, were allowed to continue through the weekend.
The Indian connection
Digvijay Singh, who later became one of India’s leading pros, was the top amateur, overtaking Amish Jaitha on the last day, Digvijay (77, 75, 73, 70) totaled 295, while Jaitha (73, 75, 76, 74) was next best at 298. Sheeraz Kalra (303) and Harmeet Kahlon (305) finished behind in that order, while Kapil Dev with 85, 82, 81 and 82 was 71st.
Jyoti puts his foot in as Sammy Daniel cracks
The Indian Open came back to North India after a long gap – the last time Delhi hosted it was at the Delhi Golf Club in 1995. But stringent rules about surrogate advertising and the fact that it was the ITC Group, which was sponsoring the tournament, meant it could not be held in Delhi.
So the event for the first time since its inception in 1964 went to a golf course other than the Delhi Golf Cub or the Royal Calcutta Golf Club. And it came to the Jack Nicklaus layout, the Classic Golf Resort, also the first designer course in India. With two wins in past years, Indian expectations, too, ran high and Indian golf was looking better than ever before.
An Indian was in chase but it was not the defending champion Arjun Atwal, whose third round 73, jeopardised his chances. It was by far one of the closest Indian Opens in recent memory. At last half a dozen players were in with a chance to make a bid for the title. After South African Sammy Daniels, who a year ago lost the Hero Honda Masters to Jyoti Randhawa, rallied from tied 15th to set the target, which the last few groups chased in the closing stages.
When the dust settled it was once again an Indian, Randhawa, who held aloft the glittering trophy to make it a golden hat-trick for Indian golf at the National Open. The win did not come easy. Randhawa finally wrested it on the second play-off hole, which ended on a rather anti-climactic note, but Indian fans had no reason to complain.
Daniels after the incredible charge with a course-record equalling 65 finished at 15-under 273, a total later matched by Randhawa. But then Daniels cracked when his tee shot on the second play-off hole (18th) went ‘out of bounds’ and the trophy slipped from his grasp.
Daniels took the two-stroke penalty to finish the hole in seven, and Randhawa did not try any heroics and instead went for a safe par to win the Indian Open which brought with it the biggest cheque of his career – $ 50,010. Randhawa became the fourth Indian pro after Ali Sher (1991 and 1993), Feroz Ali (1998), and Arjun Atwal (1999) to win this title and his winning score of 15-under was also the lowest ever by an Indian at the Open.
An emotional Randhawa, after embracing his joyous father, Brig. R.S. Randhawa commented, “My coach Kel Llewellyn told me once that avoiding greediness is a virtue of the champions. I remembered these words and played safe (on the final hole).” That sure was mature.
For good measure, he added, “This is by far the best (win), the biggest ever. I don’t think for me there will be a greater win than this one, unless I win the British Open or something. Being an Indian, I am very proud of myself that I have won the Open. I wanted it badly.” In the years to come he would add further Indian Open title in 2006 and 2007.
When the day began Daniels was so far behind and there were numerous strong contenders up ahead, that few had visualised such a situation. Curiously, even when he was the 18th fairway the 27-year-old Randhawa was not even aware of Daniels’ finishing score since the leaderboard did not display the South African’s name at the top.
He later said, “I thought Daniels had bogeyed the final hole and, now I needed only save par in order to win. It is okay because I won, but it could have proved very costly.” Randhawa’s final round 69 eventually proved just enough to get him into a play-off as the leading trio overnight leader Cunning, Yusuf and Casas faded away. Cunning opened with a birdie but then turned defensive and ended with a 73. Yusuf Ali, second overnight, lost his way with a front-nine 38 before coming in with a 35 while Filipino Felix Casas failed to find the much- needed birdie on the last four holes and missed being part of the play-off.
No less than six players were one shot off the target Daniels had set. Australian Andrew Bonhomme, who was one shot behind even Daniels after the third round, shot a final round of 65 to come to 274, which was the target till Daniels improved on it.
After Daniels finished at 273, Casas with a 71, Gaurav Ghei with a great final round surge of 66, Cunning with a defensive 73, Immelman (70) and Gilberto Morales (69) all came to 274 but that was just a bit short. All it got them was a place in a six-way tie for third.
The 1995 champion Jim Rutledge was tied ninth at 275. Atwal was way behind at 279 in a tie with Dyson just outside top-20. In retrospect, even before the play-off, it was the 18th hole, which provided a lot of drama. Daniels three-putted and finished at 15-under, while Ghei missed his birdie putt from 12 feet to finish with 14-under. Entering a new century, the Indian Open to begin with was among the strongest in recent times.
It had over 100 overseas professionals, led by the current leader of the Davidoff Asian PGA Tour, Chinese Taipei’s Yeh Wei-Tze. On the opening day Randhawa shot a 66 despite missing four other short birdies, which left him less than happy even though he shared the lead with Briton Simon Dyson and Casas, who had an eagle-two. Dyson, a rookie in 2000, would later win the Order of Merit title that year and move to European Tour. Casas with had an eagle-two on fourth, also shot 66. Atwal had a 68. On the second day, the bearded Casas, still searching his first title on the Asian Tour after for six seasons, added course record of seven under 65 for an awesome aggregate of 13-under 131.
He was three adrift of Atwal, Randhawa and Nico Van Rensburg and one behind them was Cunning and Lin Fu-Chin of Chinese Taipei, who had matched Casas’ 65. The cut came at one-under 143, one of the lowest on the Asian PGA Tour, and left 66 professionals – including 11 Indians – besides amateurs Ashok Kumar and Rahil Ganjee in the fray. Earlier, after the third round, there already were visions of an exciting finish. Cunning, the 41-year-old American from Arizona, who had spent a better part of the last decade playing in Asia, had recently revealed that he had come close to quitting the game due to personal problems. But now he was playing like a dream and was two ahead of Casas and Yusuf Ali.
Just behind them was Randhawa sharing the fourth spot with an upcoming talent from South African Trevor Immelman, who towards the end of the decade would win the Augusta Masters itself in 2008. Cunning, the 1997 Asian PGA Player of the Year, shot a third 66 for an aggregate of 201 – without a single three putt in three days – and that suggested his title drought might be nearing an end.
Yusuf, yet to win as a pro in eight years was close to the title, which had eluded his famous uncle Basad Ali. Yusuf’s stunning 66 in second round was followed by a 67 on Saturday. On Snday he dropped out of top-10 with a 73. Casas, leader at midway stage, struggled with his putting but managed to hang in for a par 72 to stay within striking distance of Cunning. Then came the drama of the final day.
Jyoti Randhawa became the man to beat on Indian soil following his third win in 18 months. He had earlier won the 1999 and 2000 Hero Honda Masters. Later he added the 2000 Hero Honda Indian Open and then again in 2006 and 2007.
The top amateur Shiv Kapur two years later won the Asian Games individual gold medal. Then after turning pro in 2005 he won the 2005 Volvo Masters of Asia and began dividing his time between Asian and European Tours and played the 2006 British Open Championships.
The Indian connection
The top amateur was Shiv Kapur (297), who within the next few years would become one of India’s leading professionals. Kapur was still studying in the United States. In 2002 he won the Asian Games individual gold medal and in 2004, he turned professional on the Indian and Asian Tours. Now he plays on Asian and European Tours.
Thailand’s Jaidee breaks Indians stranglehold
Indian golfers came into Indian Open with an amazing record of six wins in as many Asian Tour events at home since March 1998. So the fans could not be blamed for looking at yet another home winner, just as the past three editions of Hero Honda Masters and Indian Open had provided Indian winners.
But by the end of the week, the Indian stranglehold on the Indian Open had been broken by a Thai paratrooper-turned-golfer, Thongchai Jaidee, who held on to his one-shot overnight lead to edge out 25-year-old Dubai-based Scot Ross Bain to clinch the top prize of $ 50,010 in the Wills Indian Open.
Thongchai’s winning total of 17-under 271 bettered the old-mark of 16-under was set in Calcutta in 1997 by Edward Fryatt, who was the last foreigner to win the Indian Open.
Among numerous cards of 66, there was one from Atwal, who after a sedate 71 on each of the first two days clawed back contention with a 68 on Saturday. But in the end with neither Thongchai nor Bain cracking, Atwal despite a final round 66 managed only a shared third place, but five shots behind the Thai and four behind Bain.
The tournament returned to the par-72 7,114-yard Jack Nicklaus designed Classic Golf Resort, nestling in the Aravali foothills for the second straight year. Even in the absence of Jeev Milkha Singh and an injured Gaurav Ghei, Randhawa, the defending champion, and Atwal, the 1999 winner, formed a formidable pair.
Randhawa (74) having lost the tempo on the third day with a 72 went down further and ended tied 15th. At a total of 276, Atwal shared third with Chris Williams, who had three 68s in four round and the only aberration being a 72 on second day. South African James Kingston and Australian David Gleeson tied for fifth at 277, while Adam Spring (US) and Craig Kamps (South Africa) were seventh at 278. Arjun Singh tied for ninth with Americans Greg Hanrahan and Andrew Pitts at 279.
Arjun Atwal, despite a fine 66 on the final day was tied third, while Arjun Singh came ninth at 279. Delhi’s upcoming star, Ashok Kumar, who was the lone amateur to make the cut finished with a two-over 290 to be the top amateur. He had scores of 74, 69, 75, 72.
Thongchai Jaidee, the Thai superstar, who has even designed a nine-hole golf course in Thailand, went on to become the biggest money grosser in Asian golf. He was the first to cross US $ 2 million and later became the to cross $ 3 million. He divides his time between Asian and European Tours, where he has won five events besides 13 on Asian Tour.
Lucknow’s Vijay is Indian Open champion
Vijay Kumar for years was known as the ‘Don’ of Indian golf. He was virtually unbeatable on the Indian Tour, till Mukesh Kumar came along and between the two, they dominated the domestic scene.
Yet, when it came to the big Asian Tour events in India, they had been found wanting beyond finishes in top-10. Vijay had come agonisingly close in 1995 at the Gadgil Western Masters, but Gaurav Ghei pipped him on the 72nd hole.
But this time around, Vijay Kumar, who took the lead at the halfway mark never relinquished it thereafter. He even had 42-hole bogey-free run, which ended on the 18th on third day.
The man from Lucknow, who could scarcely remember how often he had won on Indian Tour, was as good as home with his fourth birdie – he also gave away three bogeys – of the day on the 16th. He carded a 71 for his 13-under 275 total.
Manila-based Canadian veteran, Rick Gibson, who had been coming to India since the 1980s, id round off with a birdie for a 70, but ended two behind at 11-under 277. In the third place with his best finish on the Asian Tour was Digvijay Singh, who had his injured brother-in-law Jyoti Randhawa in the gallery. Digvijay shot a 71 to finish at seven-under 281, four behind Gibson.
After three straight wins for Indians at the Indian Open, Thai paratrooper, Thongchai Jaidee had ended the streak a year earlier. But this time around with Thongchai missing, could an Indian wrest back the title. The fact that Indians had won seven of the last eight Asian Tour events at home was not lost on the visitors.
India’s chances may well have looked even better but for the absence of the leading trio, Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal and Jyoti Randhawa, also missing the 2002 Royal Challenge Indian Open. Jeev and Atwal were playing in Doha, while Randhawa was nursing an injury sustained in an accident.
Still, the field did have six of the top 10 on the Asian PGA Tour’s Order of Merit including India’s Harmeet Kahlon, winner of the 2002 Hero Honda Masters.
There were also veterans like Cunning and Gibson who had enough experience to challenge them while other foreign challengers included Prayad Marksaeng (Tha), Andrew Pitts (US), Thaworn Wiratchant (Tha), Anthony Kang (Kor), Gerry Norquist (US) and Boonchu Ruangkit (Tha) among others.
The Indian Tour players, many regulars on Asian Tour, too, were there. They included two-time Indian Open winner Ali Sher, the 1998 winner Feroz Ali, Gaurav Ghei, Mukesh Kumar, Vijay Kumar, Uttam Singh Mundy, Arjun Singh, Vivek Bhandari, Amandeep Johl, Shiv Prakash, Sanjay Kumar and Rohtas Singh.
Vijay, who took the lead at half-way stage, built on it on the third day. As Pitts challenge faded away, it was left to Gibson to provide that.
Beginning the final day three shots ahead, Vijay dropped strokes on the fifth and sixth on front nine. With Gibson picking a birdie on the third, the two were now level at 10-under after the sixth.
Both birdied the eighth and on the ninth Vijay sank a 12-footer putt to save par while Gibson bogeyed. When Vijay birdied the 10th, he was two ahead again.
Gibson came right back with a birdie on the 11th to reduce the lead to one.
The shot that did a world of good for Vijay’s confidence was on the 12th. Vijay’s tee shot on the par-3 hole slid down the bank and onto the rough on the 13th tee, across the path. With no clear shot to the pin, Vijay went over the tree branches and hit an amazing lob wedge shot to give himself a par chance. He missed the putt, but so did Gibson.
After a par on 13th, on the 14th Vijay knocked in an 18-20 footer for birdie, which put him firmly ahead by two.
On the 15th, Vijay parred after going into the bunker, while Gibson missed a four-foot birdie putt. That ended his hopes.
A 15-foot birdie on 16th sealed Vijay’s win as he went three ahead. After pars in 17th, Gibson did managed a birdie on 18th to Vijay’s par, but it was all over.
When Vijay came on to the 18th green, he was three ahead of Gibson. As Vijay parred, Gibson birdied to narrow the gap to two, but that was merely academic for there was never a doubt as to where the trophy was headed.
Vijay had now joined the illustrious group of Indians to have won the Indian Open alongside Ali Sher, Feroz Ali, Arjun Atwal and Jyoti Randhawa as an Indian professional winner of the Open. The late P. G. `Biloo’ Sethi had won the championship as an amateur in 1965.
As Vijay won $ 50,000, Gibson won $ 33,090, a little over $ 3,000 more than what he got for the win in Philippines.
Liang Wen-chong, a future star from China was tied for fourth at 282 with Mo Joong-Kyung at 282. Pitts was sixth at 283 alongside Mardan Mamat, Soe Kyaw Naing of Myanmar and Thammannoon Srirot.
Vijay Kumar born in 1968 is the son of Lachman Prasad, who was himself a caddie to begin with. He later caddied and played with Lal Chand, a well-known professional in the 1960s. Vijay gives credit to Lal Chand for having given him tips early in his career in Lucknow. Lal Chand tied for sixth in 1965 and for seventh in the 1969 Indian Open.
The top amateur was Jasjeet Singh, whose elder brother Simarjeet Singh, was tied for second place among amateurs. Jasjeet totaled 289 with rounds of 71, 74, 70 and 74, while Simarjeet and Manav Jaini totaled 298.
Clever Cunning seals title finally
Over the 20-odd years that Mike Cunning had spent in Asia after failing to make a mark on the US Tour, he had come close to a title numerous times only to fall just short. But this time around, Cunning was too good to allow another slip. Firing one of his best closing cards in an international event, Cunning slotted 10 birdies against to two bogeys to simply blow away all competition and win by a whopping five shots over Canadian Rick Gibson at the 2003 Indian Open. It was the second straight runner-up finish for Gibson at the Indian Open. Cunning had shot all four rounds under 70. He began the day tied third, two shots behind Randhawa. If the front nine, was good enough at 33, the back nine burnt the course with a 31. Cunning also tallied a record total of 18-under 278, which brought him his first big title since turning professional 23 years earlier. Cunning admitted he had never started off well on a Sunday.
“After coming close to winning, when you walk away without a title, you begin to doubt your abilities. Perhaps, I’ve never got off to a good start on a Sunday (in the final round). But today, everything I was hitting was going to the pin,” said Cunning, who in 1997 won the APGA Order of Merit without winning a title.
Gibson finished five shots behind, while James Kingston and Adam Groom shared third place and Zaw Moe, who had struggled through the season so far was fifth with 277 after rounds of 63, 72, 70 and 71. As Cunning picked up $ 50,000, Gibson went home $ 33,090 richer and Kingston and Groom took $ 16,537.50 each.
The field included five former Indian titleholders, defending champion Vijay Kumar, Jyoti Randhawa (2000), Arjun Atwal (1999), Feroze Ali (1998) and the evergreen Ali Sher (1991 and 1993). Six of the top-10 on the current Asian PGA Order of Merit were present and 47 of the top-60 from the last Order of Merit are also part of the 156-player field, which included 45 Indians. From amongst the field 32 players had won 65 Tour titles between them. Leading the field was Atwal, the current leader of the APGA Tour winner of the Malaysian Open ahead of World No. 5 Retief Goosen. Randhawa in 2002 had become the first Indian to top the Asian Tour Order of Merit, despite not winning titles and missing a portion of the season due to a collarbone fracture following a motorbike accident.
The foreign challenge included 2001 champion Thongchai Jaidee, Australia’s in-form Brad Kennedy, Scotland’s Simon Yates, Thailand’s Sriroj Thammanoon and Thaworn Wiratchant, South Africa’s Craig Kamps, Sammy Daniels and James Kingston and Americans Aaron Meeks, Andrew Pitts, Gerry Norquist and Mike Cunning.
When the final round got underway, Randhawa and Groom were expected to hold centre-stage, but the contest never materialised. Randhawa never recovered after the double-bogey on the third hole, where he found his first tee shot in a unplayable position and so had to go back to the tee. Two groups ahead the race was now between Cunning and Kingston. Kingston came into the picture with the third `albatross’ of his career on the par-5 eighth, where he holed his second shot. Kingston, five-under 31 on front nine courtesy his albatross, matched Cunning till the turn, after which he failed to find any birdies. Cunning, five-under 31 on the back nine, on the other hands was red-hot with four birdies on the last five holes as against Kingston’s 38. That turned a close contest into a rout.
The Indians may not have maintained their lease over the title, but they did have three finishers in the top-10 with overnight leader Jyoti Randhawa (74), losing his way on the final and ended in a tie for sixth with Arjun Atwal (71), both totaling 10-under 271 and Digvijay Singh (71) ended in a tie for 10th place.
On the final day South African James Kingston landed a rare albatross for the third time in his career. Kingston chasing Mike Cunning holed his second shot on the par-five eighth hole. Kingston’s earlier albatross efforts came in the 2000 Hero Honda Masters at the DLF Golf and County Club, Gurgaon and the 2002 Omega Hong Kong Open.
Mamat ends a 10-year wait for maiden pro title
The growth of Indian golfers has times extracted a small price in that India’s leading stars are often busier playing on bigger Tours, while the Indian Open is being held back home. So, it was in 2004, as Arjun Atwal was busy with the UA PGA Tour, while Jyoti Randhawa and Jeev Milkha Singh were playing on the Japan Tour. But the Asian challenge was strong to ensure a fine field. In the end, a stunning round of seven-under 65 capped with a 25-foot monster putt on the 72nd hole ended Singaporean Mardan Mamat’s 10-year wait for his maiden professional title. The 36-year-old from tall and well-built golfer, who has been a regular on Asian Tour rallied from a three-shot deficit overnight and turned it into a five-shot win over Mexican Pablo Del Olmo, who was unable to emulate the only Mexican winner of the Indian Open, Rafael Alarcon, who was champion here exactly 20 years earlier in 1984. Mamat, who had rounds of 68, 67 and 70 before his 65, totaled 18-under 270 to equal Mike Cunning’s year-old record at the same course. While Mamat reserved his best for the last day, overnight leader by three shots, Pablo Del Olmo, who had never before led into the final day, blew his advantage and ended second. Mamat grabbed $ 50,000 and Del Olmo took $ 33,090. Mamat had a great birdie-birdie start and he ended as well with birdies on both 17th and 18th. In between he was steady and solid, giving his opponents no chance.
The Asian challenge was strong enough to whet the appetite of the fans, despite the absence of some top Indians. The field included defending champion Mike Cunning, veterans Greg Hanrahan and Chinese Taipei’s Wang Ter-Chang, Scott Barr, Thais Boonchu Ruangkit and Thaworn Wiratchant, Dubai-based Scotsman Ross Bain, a former runner-up, South Africans Hendrik Buhrmann and Chris Williams, Canadian Rick Gibson, twice runner-up and others. The former US Armyman Hanrahan was just fresh off his second place behind Colin Montgomerie at the Caltex Masters in Singapore a day after turning 46. The Indian challenge was led by the domestic stars Digvijay Singh, brother-in-law of Randhawa, Indian Tour leader Ashok Kumar, 2002 Indian Open champion Vijay Kumar, Mukesh Kumar, and S. S. P. Chowrasia besides Asian Tour regulars Arjun Singh, Gaurav Ghei and Feroze Ali and Mukesh Kumar does not inspire much confidence.
On the third day, Del Olmo rode his luck. Despite being all over the place, he chipped in from 25 feet on the 14th, and on the 16th and 18th his shots hit trees and came back from the bushes. On the 18th, his shot from the bunker was sure to overrun the green, but it hit Wiratchant’s ball and stopped three feet from the cup. But Del Olmo missed the putt. But on the final day, Del Olmo’s famed luck ran out as Mamat was in sizzling form. The race, which seemed to be a two-horse one after Mamat’s early charge became a no-contest by the end. Three behind at the start, Mamat narrowed the gap to one by the third with birdies on first two.
On the fourth, Del Olmo dropped a double-bogey and fell behind. Mamat never let go off the lead and in fact stretched it to five by the end. Three behind Del Olmo at 278 were Korea’s Mo Joong-Kyung and first-day leader Keith Horne, who took home $16,537 each. India’s top finisher was Mukesh Kumar’ (279) in shared fifth place and Feroze Ali came seventh spot at 280. Thanking his caddie, Ali Jaan, who was on the bag, when Arjun Atwal won the 2003 Hero Honda Masters, Mamat also expressed his gratitude to Sukhdev Singh, the yoga teacher, who taught him how to relax. His excellent play apart, Mamat was also very lucky.
On the 11th hole, Mamat’s tee shot struck a spectator and stayed on the fairway. Then his second shot looked set to overshoot the green, but the ball hit a stake, which was lying on the ground, and remained in on the fringe of the green. The stake had been taken down by a cameraman, who then did not put it back. After his double bogey, Del Olmo did manage three birdies and two bogeys but they were just not enough to keep Mamat away on the day. The Indian challenge was not the strongest, yet there was Mukesh Kumar (279) in shared fifth place, his best ever on Asian Tour, while former champion – Feroze Ali was in the seventh spot at 280.
Ali Jaan, younger brother of two-time champion Ali Sher, is also a lucky caddie. A regular bagman for Arjun Atwal – he was on it when he won the 2003 Hero Honda Masters – Ali carried the bag for Mardan Mamat. But before he agreed, Ali made sure Atwal was not coming for the week.
Thaworn holds off Ghei on final day
Gaurav Ghei is a big sentimental favourite at the Delhi Golf Club. Ten years earlier, he had executed what many still consider as the ‘Most talked about shot in Indian golf’. He had chipped in on the 72nd to land the title at the Gadgil Western Masters in 1995. He may well have added the 2005 Indian Open to his tally, but for three successive heart-wrenching misses from the 14th onwards on the back nine. There was a big Indian representation in the top-10 though the big prize eluded the Indians, as Ghei’s trademark final round charge fell short by two, leaving Thai star Thaworn Wiratchant as the latest Hero Honda Indian Open champion.
The field was 136 professionals and eight amateurs, but Jeev Milkha Singh was once again missing. Tour leader Thaworn Wiratchant was there as were a total of 12 from the top-30 on Asian Tour’s Money List. Leading the Indian charge was Atwal, who was having a great season in US with four top-10 finishes on the US PGA. And he was also coming to the DGC with happy memories as he was returning to it for the first time since winning the 2003 Hero Honda Masters, when Randhawa was tied second behind him. Other pre-tournament stars for India were Randhawa, rookie pro Shiv Kapur and Indian tour stars Mukesh Kumar and Ashok Kumar. Kapur came into the event with a string of four top-10 finishes in Asia.
On the final day, Ghei may well have challenged the course record of 63 as he turned in four-under. Starting the final day at eight-under and six shots adrift of the leader, Thaworn, Ghei birdied the third, sixth, seventh and eighth holes to turn in at 12-under. Excitement mounted as Ghei holed an eight-footer for a birdie on the 11th, and just then Thaworn missed a six-foot par putt to allow the gap to narrow down to one. There ended Ghei’s great run as he missed a three-footer birdie putt on the 14th and then missed another birdie putt from eight feet on the 15th.
Still shaking his head in apparent disappointment, Ghei found the right line and speed to putt beautifully from almost 15 feet on the 16th, only to see it stop at the lip of the cup. A two-putt on the 17th was followed by a ‘replay’ of his 1995 chip-in on the 18th hole. Ten years ago his chip-in from the fringe of the green, just above the bunker, was for an eagle and a title. This time it was a birdie and runner-up spot. Thaworn, going into the final round three ahead of the field, stayed steady despite Ghei’s amazing charge over the four-under front nine. Ghei’s final round 66 and the 69 on third day saw him rise from way back in the pack to sole second.
As Ghei set the target, Thaworn hung in with two birdies in his bogey-free back nine in a card of 70 for a total of 16-under 272. He picked a cheque of $ 47,250 to stay in lead at the top of the Asian Tour Order of Merit. It left Ghei a cheque of $32,400, which helped him secure his 2006 card for the Asian Tour. Prom Meesawat, an upcoming Thai, whose father, Suthep played at Indian Open years ago, and South Africa’s Hendrik Buhrmann shared the third spot and took $16,425 each. Australia’s Terry Pilkadaris finished fifth with a 71 for a cheque of $11,640.
Overall Indians had a fine finish in the tournament. Gaurav Ghei was second, while the domestic Indian Tour leader Mukesh Kumar (68), was tied for sixth with 2000 champion, Jyoti Randhawa. Randhawa again faltered on the final day just as he had in 2003, coming in with a card of 73. Ashok Kumar shot a 68 to share the eighth place with rookie pro Shiv Kapur, who recovered from a double bogey on fourth to finish with 69 and a total of eight-under 280. Adding to India’s might was Arjun Atwal (70) in tied 11th place with Shamim Khan (71) and Jaiveer Virk (74) with seven-under 281.
Jasjeet Singh was once again the top amateur with rounds of 70-74-70-76 and a total of 290. His brother Simarjeet Singh (68-76-74-74) was next best at 292 and Joseph Chakola (301) was third best amateur.
Randhawa wins three-way play-off
In the six years since he won the first Indian Open at the Classic Golf Resort, Jyoti Randhawa had matured into one of Asia’s best golfers. He had won the Asian Tour Order of Merit in 2002, but had not been able to pick another Asian Tour title at home since. Time and again, he had come close and finished in top-5. This time Randhawa made no mistake and won a sensational three-way play-off involving two other Indians, S.S.P. Chowrasia and Vijay Kumar, to became the second Indian to win the Indian Open for a second time. After each of the three players had a chance to win in regulation, the trio were tied at 18-under 270 leading to a play-off. Eventually Randhawa won on the second play-off hole which spilled onto Monday.
With Hero getting into its second year of the sponsorship of the Indian Open, the prize purse after a long time moved from $ 300,000 to $ 400,000. But the field for the 2006 edition once again the big two, Jeev Milkha Singh and Arjun Atwal, who were busy with other Tours.
But Randhawa was there as were the other leading Indians including Shiv Kapur, whose stock after his Volvo Masters win in December 2005 was very high, and there was the DGC favourite Gaurav Ghei. Indians who had won three in a row from 1998 had not won since 2002, when Vijay was the winner, though Gaurav Ghei had come close and finished second in 2005.
The foreign challenge included European Tour winners Simon Dyson (England), Andrew Coltart (Scotland) and Graeme McDowell (Northern Ireland) besides 11 others from the top-20 list of the Asian Tour Order of Merit. Former Asian Tour No. 1 in 2000, Dyson had already won twice on European Tour in the season.
On the final day, Vijay Kumar, the 2002 winner, was all charged up. Playing ahead of the lead group, Vijay starting the day at 12-under and four shots behind overnight leader Randhawa, carded the day’s best six-under 66 to set the clubhouse target of 18-under 270. He rounded off the day with a long curling birdie. Playing two groups ahead of the leading trio, Vijay Kumar started the day four shots behind overnight leader There was a time when Vijay was actually two ahead of Randhawa at one stage, but Randhawa still had a lot of holes to play. Vijay missed a short putt on the 16th and a birdie on 17th but did end up in lead with a birdie-finish on 18th. Randhawa missing a short par-putt on the 16th to drop back. Meanwhile Chowrasia too lead briefly on the 16th tee before Vijay finished. On the 17th, Chowrasia fired his third straight birdie to leave Randhawa behind and caught up with Vijay, who had just finished at 18-under. Chowrasia still had a chance to put the title out of Vijay’s grasp and possibly Randhawa, too, when he had a eight-foot putt to go to 19-under.
He missed it and that opened the door for Randhawa, who birdied the final hole to become the third player on 18-under. Then followed the tense play-off, which spilled over to Monday, as fading light and heightened tension, saw Randhawa missed a birdie-putt from less than five feet. That kept Chowrasia alive in the play-off, as the latter holed his small putt. The three-way play-off on Sunday saw Vijay Kumar falter on the tee shot as drove into the right bushes and called off the search after 10 futile minutes. With only Randhawa and Chowrasia left, the play-off battle was carried forward to Monday from Sunday evening as fading light stopped play following the first play-off hole. On Monday the drama lasted just 18 minutes on the 18th hole in front of a few hundred fans at the Delhi Golf Club.
Randhawa collected the winner’s cheque of $63,400, the biggest since the inception of the Open in 1964. Vijay Kumar and Chowrasia received $33,900 each. Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia finished tied second for the second time at the Indian Open in 2007, the first occasion being nine years earlier. This time, his missed putt on the second play-off hole cost him Rs, 13.38 lakhs, which was the difference between Jyoti Randhawa’s winnings in Indian currency and his own share of the equal second place with Vijay Kumar.
Chiragh Kumar, who was part of the Asian Games bronze medal winning team in 2006, claimed the amateur title with a remarkable five-under 67 for a share of the 10th spot at 9-under 279.
Randhawa achieves a rare three-peat at Indian Open
Jyoti Randhawa in India had reached an almost unbeatable stage. The moment he entered a tournament in India, international or domestic, he was designated as the favourite. Four wins and countless top-10 finishes in India once again installed him as the odds-on favourite for the 2007 edition, which touched a new high in terms of prize money. Hero Honda raised it to a landmark figure of $ 500,000 with another $ 100,000 raise in the purse.
The 35-year-old Randhawa, whose previous wins at the Indian Open, in 2000 and 2006, came through a play-off looked set for another tight finish as he started the day at a modest 10-under 206 in shared lead with the hugely talented Chapchai Nirat of Thailand.
But as the day wore on, there was no doubt about the winner. Chapchai fell back early, but Chinese Taipei’s Chang Tse-Peng (68) and another Indian challenger Rahil Gangjee (66) did make their charges, but never really threatened Randhawa (69).
“I knew I had sealed it (title) with that shot (eagle on 16th). With two holes to play, I only needed to play to par. I felt the pressure but tried to calm myself after getting quite elated and emotional (after the ‘eagle’). I think, I did a great job of keeping the pressure out,” said Randhawa, after his eagle-two on par-4 16th.” A revised and longer layout at 7,014 yards with three new holes at the Delhi Golf Club still had home golfers start as favourites at a tournament, which had produced Indian winners in five of the last ninth editions. The changes on the course came at the par-4 10th, where the tee was pushed back to increase the yardage from 428 to 474, while the par-4 third was lengthened from 411 to 443 yards and the par-3 seventh became a real ‘toughie’ with the yardage going up from 182 to 230 yards.
Heading the field for the event were Randhawa and Jeev Milkha Singh, coming on the back of a sensational 2006, when he finished on top of the Asian Tour Order of Merit and won four titles and ended in 37th in the world.
The rest of Indian regulars on the Asian Tour were all there, barring Shiv Kapur, who was trying to improve on his position on the European Tour.
Even before the tournament teed off, Randhawa admitted to the pressure of playing at home and trying to equal Australian Peter Thompson’s record of three Indian Open titles. At a pre-tournament briefing, he smiled and said, “Thanks for adding to the pressure.”
Chowrasia and Vijay Kumar, who lost in a play-off the previous year were both back to renew their challenge for the tournament.
On the final day Randhawa turned into a one-horse race with a superb 69 and a three-shot win for a second straight Indian Open title, setting the stage for a possible hat-trick in 2008.
Chapchai, who had held at least a share of the lead for the first three days, was a factor. But his bogey on the fourth made Randhawa a sole leader for the first time in the tournament and he never let that go.
Randhawa did bogey the ninth when he went into the left bushes, but his playing partners, Chapchai and Mark Brown of New Zealand, third overnight, went for double bogeys.
The margin at the end was a huge three shots, but for a while it looked it might be smaller. Chang playing two groups ahead of Randhawa narrowed the gap down to one shot with a birdie on the 17th.
But a few minutes later Randhawa virtually sealed his third Indian Open title with a sensational shot on the 16th. A perfect 8-Iron approach shot on the par-4 hole from 171 yards found its way into the hole for an eagle that ended all hopes Chang might have entertained of stretching Randhawa.
The normally reticent Randhawa was unable to control his glee as he pumped his fist, punched the air and tossed away his club in sheer joy. Barring a catastrophe, he was going to be champion again.
Chapchai ended with a 76 and fell to tied fifth with Lu Wen-Teh (72), Australian David Gleeson (72) and Mark Brown (75) at six-under 282. Brown, who took time off from professional golf to do a stint at teaching in New Zealand, ended fifth. Early in 2008, he won two events in India – the SAIL Open, a $ 400,000 and in the very next week he emerged winner at the tri-sanctioned Johnnie Walker Classic.
Jyoti Randhawa became only the second player and the first Indian to win the Indian Open three times. The first was Australian legend Peter Thomson who won in 1964, 1966 and 1976. Randhawa was also the first player since Kenji Hosoishi (1967 and 1968) to achieve back-to-back wins at the Indian Open.
It was the fifth win in as many starts in India for Jyoti Randhawa, making him the hottest player ever on Indian courses. The five wins included two Indian Opens and three events on the domestic PGTI Tour in a span of 12 months.
Even though all attention was focused on Jyoti Randhawa, there was a great charge by Gangjee, whose six-under 66 saw him leapfrog to a third place worth $ 30,500. Gangjee, who played with Randhawa in the third round, had five birdies and an eagle.
There were further top-10 finishes for the Indians. Last year’s runner-up S.S.P. Chowrasia, Arjun Singh and Ashok Kumar finished tied ninth at five-under 283, while Jeev Milkha Singh, who made the cut on the bubble, shot a final round of 68 to come inside top-15 at three-under 285.
The top amateur was Delhi-based Rashid Khan with rounds of 74, 71, 74 and 75.
A Chinese champion at Indian Open
A year earlier Jyoti Randhawa won his second straight and third overall Indian Open title to join the legendary Peter Thomson as the only other player to have won three Indian Opens. So there was much focus and attention if Randhawa could go on better – win three in a row and go past Thomson with four in all.
Even though China was a very important port of call for golf in Asia, there were not too many Chinese players who came to India, but then there were not too many too Chinese players who had grown into the title-winning category.
Now, however, following in the footsteps of Zhang Lianwei, a legend back in Chinese golf, there was a young star on the make, Liang Wen-chong, who finished the 2007 season atop the Asian Tour Order of Merit, becoming the first player from his country to do so, but only after going through some tense moments on the final day, when he needed to birdie the last two holes to win, which he did!
Liang made his presence felt on the very first day when he knocked on the doors of golf’s magical figure of 59. He gave the tournament, at the bush-filled Delhi Golf Club an electric start with a 12-under 60 that broke the DGC course record, the Indian Open record and the record for the lowest 18-hole score in relation to par.
India’s Jeev Milkha Singh, still looking for his maiden international win at home, carded one of his best rounds of 65, but still found himself five behind in second place, so awesome was Liang’s flawless performance with a dozen birdies, that included eight birdies on the front nine of the course, which was his second nine.
Taking a cue from Liang’s brilliant performance of first round, Dutchman Guido Van Der Valk blasted a superb 61 to move to sixth spot. Van Der Walk had a16-shot swing from his first round 77. Having held the lead for three days, Liang was beginning to feel the pressure on the final day, but he handled it well to beat back a magnificent charge from Australian Darren Beck (65).
Liang was three under after nine holes on the final day but he opened the door for others by dropping a shot on the 14th hole and then double bogeyed the 15th. Around the same time Beck, starting the day at eight-under in tied 12th, made a great charge and finished with a stunning 65 that set a clubhouse target of 15-under. Liang slipped to 14-under by the time he arrived at 17th tee and he was one behind Beck. He bounced back with an accurate drive on the 17th hole, which he followed by nailing the putt to draw level with Beck, who had moved from the players lounge to the practise green to get ready for a possible play-off.
Meanwhile, Liang now on the 18th chipped in perfectly to leave himself a three-foot birdie putt for a win and he dully holed it.
Jeev, who won the Order of Merit in 2006, even contemplated pulling out on the fourth morning, needed the help of the physio to get in a shape to play the final round. Jeev Milkha Singh, who had often missed the Indian Open, was the top Indian after opening the week with a 65. He followed with rounds of 74, 68 and 69 to total 276 and was fourth.
Rounding off a great week for the Indians were Mukesh Kumar and Ashok Kumar, who tied for sixth at eight-under 280, and Sanjay Kumar, tied for 10th at seven-under 281. The top amateur was Moin Malak (72-72-73-72) at one-over 289, while Manav Das (71-73-72-75) was second and HS Kang (71-73-80-87) was third.
When dreams became a reality for the modest Muniyappa
Chinnaswamy Muniyappa scripted one of the greatest feel-good stories in Indian golf completing a long journey from being a ‘forecaddie’ to becoming the Hero Indian Open champion. Even before he won, the play-off between Muniyappa and Korean Lee Sung was a tale of human spirit triumphing over adversities. While Muniyappa grew from humble beginnings to become a champion golfer, Lee was by birth deaf. The 32-year-old Bengaluru-based Muni beat Lee on the first play-off to became only the seventh Indian to win the Indian Open.
Muniyappa, who turned a pro way back in 1996 as an 18-year-old, had finished in the top-20 of an Asian Tour event only twice before. He had won only once as a pro on the Indian domestic Tour and never played as an amateur in his career. Muniyappa started the week with modest ambitions of trying to finish high up on the leaderboard to keep his Asian Tour playing rights, but as he confessed, once he was into the play-off he decided to go for broke and play aggressively for a win, which he did with a nerve-less putt to win at the DLF Golf and Country Club in his very first season on the Asian Tour.
Australian Adam Blyth, third the previous year at the Delhi Golf Club, but still looking to win his first title on the Asian Tour, gave the Hero Honda Indian Open a great start firing an eight-under-par 64, which was flawless and included eight birdies. Blyth with his father, Stephen, on the bag, was just one shot away from the course record. On the penultimate day Muniyappa grabbed outright lead but not before going through a dramatic 18th hole. Starting the third day in shared lead with Lee, Muniyappa was in the greenside bunker in two on the par-five 18th. But while clearing a plastic wrapper from behind the ball he appeared to brush the sand with his club head, which if true would have led to a penalty. But after reviewing television footage and consulting rules officials near the bunker, the tournament director cleared Muniyappa of any infringement and his scored stood at 71 and the total at 206.
Starting the final day, with a one-shot lead, Muniyappa played a solid final round of two-under-par 70. He birdied seventh and ninth on the front nine added another birdie on 11th but dropped his first shot of the day on 14th. He quickly recovered with a birdie on the following hole before dropping a shot again on the 16th. Leading by a shot, Muniyappa parred the 18th and that meant Lee needed a birdie on the 18th to get into a play-off. Lee had earlier mounted a challenge for the title with a three-under par front nine but he made costly bogeys on 12th and 16th but showed great determination on the final hole. He comfortably made the green in two to make a birdie four on his last hole for a card of 69 and the pair finished tied on 12-under-par 276. In the play-off on the 18th, Lee was sitting on a birdie putt from 12-feet, while Muniyappa was two feet closer to the cup. Lee missed the birdie putt and the Indian, despite his inexperience in such situations, showed great heart to drop the 10-foot putt right in.
“I only came here to try and help keep my Asian Tour card. It was only when I got to the play-off that I thought let’s go for the win. I really don’t know what I will do with the prize money. Maybe (I will) buy a house,” said Muniyappa. Australian Marcus Both (71), Kwanchai Tannin (70) from Thailand while India’s Anirban Lahiri charged up the leader board with a 64 helped by an eagle on the last and finished two strokes back in tied third, his best for the Indian Open. With the prize money having gone up to $ 1.25m, Muniyappa earned US$198,125 for the victory which made the US$17,391 he had earned till then from the 10 previous Asian Tour in the year look paltry. It also saw him rise from 97th position on the Order of Merit to sixth. Lee Sung, the runner-up in 2009, was born deaf but he communicated with his father, Lee Kang-kun and brother Lee Sung-joo through lip reading. He started with baseball but gave it up when he had problems communicating with his coaches. He was initially registered as Lee Sung-Man but changed it for a shorter Lee Sung.
Karanjit Singh Sandhu, who finished in a tie for 36th place hails from a family of sportsmen. His brother, Manavjit Sandhu was the World Champion in Trap shooting in 2006 and has won multiple medals at Commonwealth Games and other internationals. His father, Gurbir Singh also represented India at the 1982 Asian Games and is an Arjuna Award winner.
Karlberg completes a Delhi double
For close to six months, Rikard Karlberg had been plotting his return to the Delhi Golf Club, the scene of his maiden Asian Tour win at the SAIL Open. Karlberg in his Rookie year in Asia had also missed a few cuts in between and had disappointing finishes, but he then turned his fortunes around at the Singapore Open, where he was third.
So, when he arrived at the DGC, he was full of confidence and never got into a hurry. He kept himself in the picture and then timed his move perfectly on the last day and closed the deal with a birdie-birdie finish in a card of 70 and in his own words became the ‘King of DGC’ and the first European and first winner of the Indian Open. On the final day an Indian winner for the second year in a row looked on the cards as local Jaini held the lead on the back nine after turning in 31. But he allowed the tension to get to him and dropped bogeys on the 10th, 16th and 17th holes on his homeward journey to drop into a share of third place after a 70 alongside Kapur, who shot the day’s best of 67.
Overnight leader Baek carded a final round 73 and ended second after knocking down a birdie on the last hole for lone second place and his career-best cheque of US$135,625 was good enough to secure him a Tour card for next season.
But the day belonged to Karlberg. Playing alongside Baek, he also had to contend with Jaini, who was in the group ahead. But Karlberg, seeing Jaini make mistakes, seized the initiative with a long curving 20-foot birdie putt on 17th, which gave him a two-shot cushion.
The drama, however, was not over. The Swede, who turned 24 earlier in the week, sent his third shot into the sponsor’s marquee and at the same time, Baek was in with a birdie chance on the 18th. If Karlberg bogeyed and Baek birdied, the two-shot swing could mean a play-off.
The Swede took a free drop and then stunningly holed out his fourth shot for an unlikely birdie and he screamed in delight as the crowd broke in a huge cheer. Baek, whose eagle on 14th brought him back in the fray, did birdie the last, but it only gave him sole second.
Kapur shot 67 and tied third with Jaini while Atwal, Mukesh, Ashok Kumar, Marcus Both and Siddikur were in a big bunch at fifth.
Rashid Khan, who was a member of the silver medal winning team at the 2010 Asian games in Guangzhou, China turned professional at the Hero Honda Indian Open and finished tied 42nd. In the past, Asian Games medalists like Shiv Kapur, Anirban Lahiri, Gaganjeet Bhullar and Chiragh Kumar had turned pro successfully.
The Indian contingent did extremely well with no less than five of them in top nine places. While Manav Jaini and Shiv Kapur were third at 280, Mukesh Kumar, Ashok Kumar and Arjun Atwal were all tied at fifth with totals of 281. The only amateur to make the cut was Bengaluru youngster Khalin Joshi (76-70-84-81), but he finished dead last in 70th place.
Gleeson hits right note at Hero Indian Open
When he is not playing on a golf course, the Chinese Taipei-based Australian David Gleeson is content playing his guitar and singing. A popular player on the Tour, Gleeson often livens up evenings on the Tour with his music. As an amateur Gleeson played alongside the likes of Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy, both accomplished players on the US PGA Tour now. Gleeson did win early in 2002, but never really fulfilled the potential he had showed early in his career. A second win followed in Macau in 2008 and then it was a winless three year period – till he hit the right notes at the Delhi Golf Club to win the Indian Open.
Gleeson found the DGC to his liking and totaled 20-under 268, the lowest winning total ever at Indian Open, was three clear of the local man, Chiragh Kumar, who for the first three days looked a good bet to win. Gleeson closed the week with a 68 that included a 140-yard chip in for an eagle and he was four-under for first five holes after which he parred the next 13 to canter home by three shots.
Chiragh (70) enjoyed his best finish on the Asian Tour, finishing second, while Bain and Lu Wei-chih shot matching 67s to share third place on 272. The Indian Open and the DGC has a habit of throwing up fresh Indian talent. The latest was Chiragh, who lives within 10 minutes drive of the club. He shot a stunning eight-under-par 64 to take a surprise one-shot lead in the first round. An error-free Chiragh had eight birdies and the last one could have been an eagle but for a missed putt from 15 feet. Chiragh showed his first day effort was no fluke as he opened a three-shot lead after carding a solid five-under 67 to lead with at 13-under-par 131. Chiragh turned in 34 and then had three more birdies on homeward nine. It was highlighted by a 20 feet par putt on the sixth.
Gleeson meanwhile eagled the first from 10 feet and the eighth from 20 feet during his 66 to lie second while Chapchai Nirat of Thailand, who holds the world 72-hole scoring record he set in India in 2009, was a further shot back in third after his blemish free round of 67. Bain , Scott Barr of Australia and Young Nam of Korea were tied in fourth place on 137. Three-time winner, Jyoti Randhawa missed the cut by one shot and could not remember when he had last missed the cut at DGC. Also going out early was Shiv Kapur, who was third a year ago.
As the players approached the business end of the tournament, Gleeson moved into the overdrive. He shot a second straight 66 to move into the lead at the end of three rounds. Three off the pace after two rounds, Gleeson found the greens with unerring accuracy and moved one ahead of overnight leader, Chiragh (70), whose putter went cold. Gleeson starting with two opening birdies turned in 34 and then on his second nine he had five birdies against one bogey where his approach shot flew over the 18th green and into the greenside bunker.
On the final day, Gleeson set the tone early and then just sat back and played steady. The strategy paid off. With two birdies and one eagle he was four-under after five holes and then made 13 consecutive pars. His highlight was a 140-yard chip-in eagle on the par-4 third hole. Later he would say, “Once I made that eagle I started playing more conservatively.”
The win fetched him US$198,125 and ended a three-year title drought and more importantly he was now armed with a two-year exemption. Thai Chapchai Nirat was fifth at 14-under 274 and veteran Thai Boonchu Ruangkit, sixth at 13-under 275. In a rare occurrence none of the amateurs made the cut. Five months before he turned professional, Chiragh Kumar played the 2006 Indian Open as an amateur and finished tenth, his best till the second place in 2011. Two months after his 2006 Indian Open campaign Chiragh won a silver medal in the team event – his teammates included Anirban Lahiri and Gaganjeet Bhullar – at the Doha Asian Games and immediately turned pro.
Indians had a good outing with Chiragh Kumar challenging for the title before settling for second. Himmat Rai and SSP Chowrasia were tied seventh at 276 after final rounds of 68 and 69. Manav Jaini, third in 2010, had the best weekend with rounds of 67-67, but his 71-74 for the first two rounds only fetched him a tied 12th place.
Ageless Thaworn wins second Hero Indian Open in play-off
Thaworn Wiratchant first came to the Indian in the late 1980s soon after he turned a professional in 1987. In 1988, he tied for fourth. In the time since then he came often to India and went back with varying results. He finally struck it big in 2005, when was inching towards his 40th birthday. That interestingly was also the first year of Hero’s sponsorship of the Indian Open. Thaworn, who cannot imagine of a day without a round of golf and is known to rush back to Thailand if he misses a cut to play a friendly round with his friends back home. He was tied fifth in 2004 and won in 2005.
Thaworn had finished his round with a birdie. He was then told to hang around because he could be in a play-off with Richie Ramsay, who needed a par to win the title, but ended with a bogey to make way for a play-off. In a dramatic play-off. Ramsay blasted his tee shot into a watery creek and was penalized. His third shot landed in the back of the green and he chipped to about 10 feet past the hole as he two-putted for double bogey. Meanwhile Thaworn made a two putt bogey for the win after hitting his second shot into the greenside bunker. He was stunned by his victory, which propelled him to the top of the Asian Tour Order of Merit, which he duly won for the second time.
The Hero Indian Open ventured to the southern part of India for the first time as it went to Bengaluru in Karnataka. The Hero Indian Open had previously been held only in National Capital Region (Delhi Golf Club, Classic Golf resort and the DLF Golf and Country Club) and the Royal Calcutta Golf Club.
Apart from a strong Indian and Asian starcast, there was the Swede Peter Hanson and Richie Ramsay of Scotland, two of the hottest players on the European Tour over the previous month. The Indian players included Bengaluru’s very own Anirban Lahiri, Gaganjeet Bhullar and Shiv Kapur. Lahiri, a winner on the Asian Tour this season, had not only made the cut at the British Open but also registered a hole-in-one.
Thaworn, who was two shots off the lead at the start of the day, struggled with his driver but rallied with acute iron play and a sharp short game in a round of six birdies against one bogey. He found only two fairways in regulation and didn’t see where Richie was on the 18th hole until the crowd started shouting. “It was a huge surprise to me but I’m glad I won,” he said. Thaworn, who was playing one flight in front of Ramsay, birdied the last hole in regulation play when his seven iron approach shot landed about one feet from the hole as he closed with five-under-par 66. Overnight leader Ramsay needed a par putt on the last to win but made a three-putt bogey for a 68 as the duo returned to the par four 18th hole for the play-off, which Thaworn won with a bogey. “To be honest, I didn’t expect to win with the way I was driving the ball this week. It means a lot that I’ve won a second Hero Indian Open title and that I’m now leading the Asian Tour Order of Merit,” said Thaworn, who totalled 14-under-par 270 and won US$198,125.
Kapur was the best Indian golfer as he shot a 66 for fourth place on 272. Kapur, who has four top-five finishes on the Asian Tour this season, was delighted to continue his solid form where he posted a flawless round highlighted by five birdies. “I’m happy but not satisfied. I just wanted to go out there and shoot my heart out. This is my national open and Hero is my sponsor. Obviously I would have liked to win but fourth is not bad. My streak of top-five continues,” said Kapur.
Lahiri, Arnond Vongvanij of Thailand and Makitalo were tied fifth. Thai rising star Pittayarat bogeyed the last hole to finish one shot from the play-off. Shiv Kapur was the best Indian at fourth, while Anirban Lahiri was tied fifth and Chiragh Kumar was tied eighth, his best result since his runner-up finish in 2011. The top amateur was S Chikkarangappa, who was tied 26th with rounds of 72, 68, 67 and 74 and a total of 281. Delhi’s Honey Baisoya (69-75-72-69) was next best at 285.
Thaworn Wiratchant has 17 Asian Tour titles, the most by anyone in the history of the Tour, He has also won the Asian Tour Order of Merit twice – in 2005 and 2012, both years in which he also won the Hero Indian Open.
Siddikur holds nerve to win Hero Indian Open in 50th year
Bangladeshi Siddikur claimed a nerve-wracking one-stroke victory over local hopes S.S.P. Chowrasia and Anirban Lahiri at the 50th Golden Jubilee edition of the Hero Indian Open for his second career title on the Asian Tour.
Leading by four after three rounds, the tenacious Siddikur made life difficult for himself with a wobbly final round of three-over-par 75 at the Delhi Golf Club, which allowed the chasing pack to breathe down his neck and apply the pressure.
Chowrasia, who has won twice previously at the fabled Delhi venue, but also finished runner-up twice in the Indian Open, agonisingly missed a five-foot birdie chance on the 72nd hole to force a play-off as Siddikur ended a three-year winless run.
Lahiri, who closed with a 70, shared second place with Chowrasia in the US$1.25 million tournament as he also rued a missed birdie chance on the last hole to force a play-off in front of a large gallery, who were hoping to celebrate an Indian champion in the golden edition of the Hero Indian Open.
A sensational eagle from about 30 feet on the last hole earned young Indian Rashid Khan a share of fourth place with countryman Chiragh Kumar, Filipino Angelo Que and Baek Seuk-hyun of Korea, who all ended the tournament two shots behind the champion.
Siddikur, who led the Hero Indian Open from the opening round after what he termed as “playing the best golf of my life”, started strongly with birdies on the second and fifth holes but four bogeys over a six-hole stretch around the turn opened the door for his rivals to get close to him.
He steadied the ship with birdies on 13 and 14 but a calamitous triple bogey seven on 15 and another bogey on 16 ensured a dramatic and nervy finish. But on the par three 17th, Sididikur nailed what would be the most important birdie of his tournament from 15 feet to regain a one-shot advantage as his rivals eventually missed opportunities to force a play-off.
Anirban Lahiri is the Hero at Indian Open, beats Chawrasia in play-off
It was a dream come true for Anirban Lahiri, who admitted that at the start of the final round of the Hero Indian Open 2015, he really did not think it could happen. He kept soldiering on and kept his wits and nerves about him in the closing stages to emerge as the latest Hero Indian Open winner.
The 2015 edition of the Hero Indian Open marked the first time that the tournament was co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour. There was no Hero Indian Open in the calendar year 2014 because of a change in schedules.
The 27-year-old Lahiri became the eighth Indian and the seventh Indian professional to win the Hero Indian Open and it marked the first time an Indian had won the National Open since 2009, when C Muniyappa grabbed the title. Lahiri was also the first Indian since 2007 to win it at the Delhi Golf Club.
Lahiri’s two-under 69 helped him close the seven-shot gap with SSP Chawrasia (76) and then the two were engaged in a play-off, which Lahiri won with a birdie as Chawrasia went into the bushes off the tee and never recovered.
It was Hero MotoCorp’s Brand Ambassador Lahiri’s second title in three weeks following his win at the Malaysian Open earlier in February.
Lahiri was seven shots off the pace at the start of the day, as overnight leader Chawrasia struggled in the blustery conditions to return with a disappointing 76 at the challenging Delhi Golf Club.
Both players finished on seven-under-par 277 in regulation play and returned to the 18th hole where Lahiri sealed the win with a birdie from inside 10-feet. Chawrasia’s title hopes faded when his tee shot landed under thick branches.
He took advantage of Chawrasia’s stuttering form when he turned in 34 before trading one birdie against one bogey on the back nine. But it was a magical chip-in par on the 17th hole which kept him in the title race.
CHAWRASIA ACHIEVES LIFE-LONG DREAM, LAHIRI FINISHES SECOND AT HERO INDIAN OPEN
SSP Chawrasia produced a gutsy performance under difficult circumstances to win the Hero Indian Open 2016 after finishing second no less than four times since 1999.
Chawrasia, who started the day two clear of Terry Pilkadaris (76) and four clear of Anirban Lahiri (69) and Rashid Khan (72) shot one-under 71 including a superb birdie on 18th, to finish two ahead of Lahiri and Korean Jeunghun Wang (68).
Chawrasia totalled 15-under 273, while Lahiri and Wang were at 13-under 275. Rashid Khan finished Tied-sixth, while Shiv Kapur (70) was T-10 along with Rahil Gangjee (72) as five Indians finished in Top-10.
Chawrasia won US $ 276,660 . He also gets his European Tour card back and almost sealed his berth to the Olympic Games.
Chawrasia revealed that he had spoken to Jeev Milkha Singh the previous night and the latter told him to focus on his own game and not get perturbed or become over aggressive if someone else makes a birdie charge.
Chawrasia had finished second in this event four times, including last tournament when Lahiri defeated him in a play-off. But on SundayChawrasia held his nerve down the stretch to claim a third European Tour title by two shots. It was also his fourth Asian Tour win.
On the tense 18th, Chawrasia hit a poor second shot but a brilliant third shot that gave him a birdie chance from three feet. Lahiri, needing to be one better than Chawrasia on the final hole to force a play-off, hit the board at the sponsor’s marquee and managed only a par, while Chawrasia birdied to win by two.