Wednesday, 27 February 2008

World Number Five Adam Scott is hoping to mark his first visit to India with a second victory of the year when he tees up in the Johnnie Walker Classic at the DLF Golf and Country Club on the outskirts of New Delhi.

Five weeks ago Scott raced to victory in the Commercialbank Qatar Masters, presented by Dolphin Energy, with a stunning final round of 61 at Doha Golf Club and now the highest ranked player in the field has his sights set on repeating his 2005 success in the Johnnie Walker Classic, an event sanctioned by The European Tour, Asian Tour, PGA Tour of Australasia and the PGTI.

Scott is a truly international golfer with wins all around the world – his six European Tour titles coming in as diverse locations as China, Qatar, Scotland, South Africa and Sweden, which sit alongside six victories on the US PGA Tour and a further two victories in Singapore - and the 27 year old would dearly love to add India to his growing list of countries conquered.

His goal is simple. “Just to win,” he stated. “The feeling of winning is I think the greatest feeling you can get out of the game, and that should be good motivation for you.”

Scott also relishes new challenges and opportunities to play the game on the global stage.

“There's certainly a big push for golf in India. This is the part of the game that I love, getting the opportunity to travel the world and coming to places that I may not have been able to go to.  So it's exciting for me to be here for the first time.”

Colin Montgomerie is another competing in India for the first time and the Scot is determined to continue his drive towards the World’s Top 50 and a coveted place in the Masters. His progress through two rounds of last week’s WGC – Accenture Match Play Championship lifted him to 54th and another good week would put him in the frame for Augusta. Montgomerie needs to be in the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking the week prior to the season’s first Major to secure an invitation.

“The reason I'm playing for the next few weeks is to gain as many World Ranking points as possible,” said Montgomerie. “ I gained a few last week and moved up to 54th, and I've got more to do this week to try to get in the Top 50 and stay there when the cut-off for the Masters. I need to get in that, because I'm a great believer if you're not playing in the tournament, you can't win.”

First his focus is on the Johnnie Walker Classic.

“I always look forward to competing in the Johnnie Walker tournaments around the world from Johnnie Walker World Championship days in Jamaica to me being chairman of the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles and, of course, the Classic here in Asia.  I always feel comfortable playing in these tournaments, and look forward to another one starting tomorrow.”

When Montgomerie set out on his professional career 20 years ago, he could never have dreamed of playing European Tour events in places like India, but times have changed.

“We have five tournaments in China, and two now here in India, which is super, and let's hope that this is the start of many more in India, as the country develops the way it is, not just in a sporting way, but in an infrastructure way, as well. I think it's great that we're able to play and able to give more opportunity.”

Fiji’s Vijay Singh is no stranger to golf in India, and has one victory under his belt already at the DLF Golf and Country Club having won a Skins game over the same venue in 2005. He too is excited by the new opportunities opening in India.

“I think it's good for golf in Asia,” said the three-time Major Winner. “You need more tournaments like this to actually give an opportunity for the young golfers to see what golf is all about.

“There is quite a few Indian golfers that are pretty good, so that's changed a lot.  You had a new winner here a few weeks ago, so that's good for golf here in India, for a young guy to go out there and win, with the competition we have, it's really incredible.”

SSP Chowrasia was the new winner Singh was referring to, the son of a Calcutta greenkeeper emerging victorious in the EMAAR-MGF Indian Masters, and India’s new sporting hero is keeping his feet firmly on the ground.

“My life hasn’t changed … it won’t,” he said. “The only thing that could change is that I’m going to play a bit more in Europe. My confidence has gone up. After beating a field like that in the Indian Masters, I feel I can do it in Europe as well. I’ve got the confidence to do it again.”

Jeev Milkha Singh is expected to spearhead the home challenge having come close to adding to his two European Tour International Schedule victories in Indonesia two weeks ago, when he finished second. And if an Indian was to win again, Singh as no doubt it would have a huge impact on golf in India.

“It would be the icing on the cake,” he said. “I think that would be great for Indian golf.  Indian golf has come a long way.  It's the fastest growing sport in our country today.  If an Indian wins, I think we'll have more tournaments in India and more sponsors will come through and also a lot of confidence will go down the ladder to other players who play on the Indian Tour; if these guys can do it, why not us, and that's the attitude that most of the players have.”

India is the seventh different nation to host the Johnnie Walker Classic with South African Anton Haig defending the title he won a year ago in Thailand.

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