Monday, 25 February 2008

Vijay Singh and Colin Montgomerie will attempt to translate their match play form to the card and pencil format when they headline the field for this week’s Johnnie Walker Classic at the DLF Golf and Country Club in New Delhi.

The three time Major winner and the eight time European Tour Order of Merit champion both showed their games were in good shape in last week’s World Golf Championship – Accenture Match Play at The Gallery Golf Club in Tucson; Singh reaching the quarter-finals before losing narrowly to Justin Leonard, while Montgomerie beat World Number Six Jim Furyk on his way to the third round where he succumbed to the eventual runner-up Stewart Cink.

Now both men will return their focus to the marathon of a 72 hole stroke play event instead of the sprint of an 18 hole match play contest as The European Tour, in conjunction with its tri-sanctioned partners on the Asian Tour and the PGA Tour of Australasia, makes its second visit to India in the space of three weeks.

At the beginning of this month, the inaugural visit came when the EMAAR-MGF Indian Masters was contested at Delhi Golf Club, but now the focus shifts to the southern edge of the Indian capital and the Arnold Palmer-designed DLF Golf and Country Club, a testing 7176 yard par 72 layout where water abounds due to the five lakes which weave their way throughout the 18 holes.

Joining Singh and Montgomerie in making the trip from Arizona to India are Søren Hansen, Miguel Angel Jiménez, Robert Karlsson, Ian Poulter and World Number Five Adam Scott.

The 27 year old Australian only progressed through one round before exiting in Arizona but has shown his quality already this season with his sixth European Tour International Schedule title, a scintillating final round 61 giving him victory in the Commercialbank Qatar Masters presented by Dolphin Energy at the end of January.

As always in the co-sanctioned event format, the Asian challenge will be strong and nowhere will the focus be greater this week for the home supporters than on their new golfing hero – SSP Chowrasia.

The  former caddie from Calcutta gave Indian sport a glory day normally reserved solely for the cricket pitches of the world when he won the EMAAR-MGF Indian Masters three weeks ago, sparking wild scenes of celebrations.

Now Chowrasia is back in action and will help carry the weight of the home supporters’ expectations along with the more experienced players such as Arjun Atwal, Jyoti Randhawa – who will be playing at the golf club where he has an attachment – and Jeev Milkha Singh.

Singh is widely regarded as the trailblazing figure of Indian golf whose worldwide exploits in the sport were acknowledged last year when he was awarded the Padma Shri from the Indian government – one of the highest accolades available in the country – in recognition of his achievements in the game.

The 36 year old has claimed tournaments around the globe but it goes without saying how important a win in his home country would be for the winner of the 2006 Volvo Masters.

“It would be a dream come true for me to win a tournament as prestigious as the Johnnie Walker Classic on home soil,” he said. “It is also great for golf in India that Johnnie Walker has decided to stage this prestigious event at the DLF Golf and Country Club.

“I believe that the presence of some of the world’s best golfers in our country will inspire a new generation of Indian golfers.”

South Africa's Anton Haig - the youngest player to win the title at the age of 20 last year, defends his crown against a field which includes one of the men he beat in a play-off in Phuket, Thailand, 12 months ago, England's Oliver Wilson.

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