The European Tour makes an historic first visit to India this week for the EMAAR-MGF Indian Masters where the host nation’s top players will join World Number Four Ernie Els and a strong cast from The European Tour at Delhi Golf Club.
Els, who finished third at the Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday, will be the highest ranked player in the field in India’s capital city, but the Indian quartet of Arjun Atwal, Shiv Kapur, Jyoti Randhawa and Jeev Milkha Singh will naturally take centre stage alongside the South African and Europe's finest.
Atwal was the first Indian player to win on The European Tour International Schedule at the 2002 Singapore Open, while Randhawa and Singh are the top two ranked players on the Official World Golf Ranking at 85th and 91st respectively. The pair are credited for pushing the boundaries for Indian golf by putting the world’s second most populous country on the golfing map.
For Singh, India’s most celebrated golfer after receiving the Padma Shri (India’s equivalent to a knighthood) in 2007, the EMAAR-MGF Indian Masters represents a massive opportunity for India’s emerging talents to enhance their abilities against some of the world’s best players, while at the same time bringing huge benefits to his homeland.
“It’s fantastic for Indian Golf and will give it a huge boost,” said Singh. “All of the youngsters will have an opportunity to see the top players and how they conduct themselves on the golf course.
“There will be a fantastic atmosphere and the promoters of the tournament, golf in DUBAI, have done a great job by making access to the tournament free for everybody. I think that is a great gesture and is going to bring about 20,000 people a day to the tournament.
“The Delhi Golf Club is in the heart of the city and the people will come, it’s going to be great because people are now really putting money into the sport in India and it is the fastest growing sport in the country today. We have two European Tour events, four Asian Tour events and a very strong national tour called the PGTI.”
Kapur will be the local hero at the unique 7014 yard par 71 Delhi Golf Club, which was built on the site of tombs left over from the Lodhi Dynasty of the 17th century, giving the golf course an almost mystical feel that is sure to be a new experience for the majority of the international players in the field.
Being the local hero is something Kapur is ready to relish, and after his top 25 finish in Dubai last week, he is confident that his game is taking shape at just the right time.
“I’m excited about this week – it’s my home course and the pressure is always on you when you are the home boy but it’s something to relish and really enjoy. If I was to fancy my chances against Ernie and these guys I would say my best chance is round my home course!”
If it is not to be Kapur’s week, then Randahawa could well be the man to beat over the Delhi Golf Club. The 35 year old has won four times at this week’s venue, including the India Open in 2006 and 2007, and his previous form there will make him one of the pre-tournament favourites.
“I have won at the Delhi Golf Club three times on the Asian Tour and once on the Indian Tour, but it will be a lot more difficult to win because there are more world class players playing this week. But I do have a great record there and can take a lot of positives from that.
“It is great for India and Indian golf that The European Tour is coming to our country. The sport is growing fast and it will certainly help that we have players like Ernie Els in the field. I think the crowds will be amazing.”
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