India returns to the golfing spotlight this week as The European Tour revisits the world’s second most populous country for the €1.5 million Avantha Masters.
Tri-sanctioned between The European Tour, the Asian Tour and Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI), the Avantha Masters will be staged at the DLF Golf and Country Club, the venue of the 2008 Johnnie Walker Classic, won by New Zealand’s Mark Brown.
For Jeev Milkha Singh and Shiv Kapur, two of The European Tour’s most prominent Indian players, the Avantha Masters represents an outstanding opportunity for India’s emerging golfers to test themselves at the very highest level.
“It’s exciting to have The European Tour back in India,” said Singh, winner of three titles on The European Tour. “We have to take our hats off to Mr Gautam Thapar, the President of the PGTI for bringing such a big event back home. Our home players now have a great chance to rub shoulders with The European Tour players and gain some great experience.
“When an event like this comes to India it is a great chance for the guys to prove themselves on the big stage. We all know how high the standard is around the world now but for our players to get the chance to play against these guys in their own country is special.”
After witnessing the birth of his baby son less than two weeks ago, Singh is possibly the happiest man in golf at the moment and a fourth European Tour victory in his homeland would enable his dream life to continue.
“I can't explain it,” said Singh when asked about becoming a father. “I'm so excited, in fact, I had tears in my eyes when I saw my son for the first time. It's a great feeling. I don't think you realise it until you have a child of your own.
“My wife is doing well too, everything is under control, and the baby is doing fine, too. I can only thank God for this.”
Kapur, meanwhile, is hoping to make his breakthrough at the top level to become the fourth Indian player in the Tour’s history to record a victory, joining Singh, Arjun Atwal and SSP Chowrasia on India’s roll of honour.
“It’s very exciting to have a tournament of this stature in India,” said Kapur. “It gives the Indian Tour players and some of the younger guys back home a real opportunity to play a big event at home. For the younger players to be playing in a European Tour event is a really big deal.
“The European Tour brings us a lot of exposure, from media and TV pictures going out to many different countries, and it will be very good for the growth of the game. This week is a showcase for us and a great chance to put India on the golfing map and that is a big step.
“Golf is the fastest growing sport in India. Obviously you don’t compete with cricket in India because cricket is a religion, but I would say that golf is probably the country’s second sport. That is a huge growth rate, especially in the last ten years or so, and we hope it can continue on a similar path.”
Another Indian player hoping to make The European Tour breakthrough this week is the DLF Golf and Country Club’s very own Jyoti Randhawa, a prolific winner in Asia and a player who has won the Indian Open on four occasions.
Randhawa and his fellow countrymen will have to overcome a high quality international field if they want to secure the Avantha Masters with the likes of Ryder Cup stars Darren Clarke and David Howell joining former Asian Number One Liang Wen-chong and a host of European and Asian Tour champions at the DLF Golf and Country Club.