Friday, 19 March 2010

Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia gave Indian sport a glory day normally reserved solely for the cricket pitch when he thrilled the crowds at Delhi Golf Club to win the inaugural EMAAR-MGF Indian Masters.

The diminutive golfer – who prefers to go by his initials SSP and given his second name that is perhaps understandable for an English speaking audience – began the day two shots off the pace but flawless golf allied to a winning smile ensured he moved smoothly through the field to become the third Indian golfer to win a European Tour event – following Arjun Atwal and Jeev Milkha Singh – and pick up the first prize of €280,561 (£211,612).

It is a true rags to riches tale for the 29 year old, who was a caddie at Royal Calcutta Golf Club where his father was a greenkeeper and who used to sneak onto the course at night to play a few holes under the cover of darkness and teach himself the game.

Now, the Affiliate Member of The European Tour, who moved up to seventh on the Order of Merit, has every golf course on The European Tour International Schedule at his disposal until the end of the 2010 season thanks to a two year exemption which begins at the end of this year.

With everyone expecting an early charge from pre-tournament favourite Ernie Els, the big move in the early stages came from the little man, three birdies in the first four holes giving notice to the rest of the field that he meant business.

It moved Chowrasia to the head of affairs and he never moved from there, a raking 40 foot birdie putt at the seventh and a 15 footer at the 11th being his only other birdies but steady par play from there to home was good enough for victory as his other challengers faltered.

Even when he did miss the putting surfaces with his approach shots, he held his nerve and lived up to his nickname 'Chipputtsia' with excellent work on and around the greens in the Indian capital.

In the end his final round 67 for a nine under par total of 279 gave him a two shot victory over Ireland’s Damien McGrane, who battled bravely but could not find the birdies to mount a serious challenge and whose final round 70 left him on seven under par 281.

Spain’s José Manuel Lara finished third on five under par 283 after a closing 72 while Els was amongst a group of five players in a share of sixth place on three under par 285 after his closing 71.

"On the back nine I tried to make my pars and I am glad I was able to do that,” said Chowrasia who, as well as the cheque and the trophy, was also presented with an Omega watch by Bollywood superstar Abishek Bacchan, whose appearance at the prize giving whipped the crowds, already delirious with their countryman’s victory on home soil, into a state of near hysteria.

It also gave a massive headache for the Indian paparazzi – 40 extra of whom had turned up just to photograph Bacchan primarily – over where to train their lenses first.

Chowrasia went on: “Over the last five holes I did think about winning and I just wanted to stay calm and focus on my target. I feel like I have played very well and stayed calm. I never thought that I could win this tournament, but I don't know what I'm going to do in the future. I am sure I will play more both in Asia and particularly in Europe.”

McGrane, who played with World Number One Tiger Woods over the weekend in last week’s Dubai Desert Classic, signed for a 70 courtesy of a birdie at the last to claim his best European Tour finish, but was left to rue a bogey at his penultimate hole.

“When I reflect on the tournament, I played an awful lot of good golf this week and I’m happy with the way I played,” said the Irishman. “I could have won, could have done all sorts of things, but I’m satisfied with second place.

“But fair play to the champion. Obviously I’d have liked to win but in the end I’m delighted to see an Indian golfer win in India and I think that will be great for the future of golf the country and the future of the European Tour in India itself.”

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
2MCGRANE, DamienIRL18-7
3LARA, José ManuelESP18-5
T4SINGH, DigvijayIND18-4
T6GHEI, GauravIND18-3
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