After stops in Malaysia and Thailand, the European Tour snakes its way to Delhi this week for the Hero Indian Open.
The 51st edition of India’s premier tournament breaks new ground as it’s the first to have European Tour status.
“The Hero Indian Open has marked its space as an important event with its inclusion on The European Tour, and this augurs well for the sport of golf in India,” says the tournament’s star draw Miguel Angel Jimenez. Yes, it was definitely him who came up with those words.
The good news for fantasy players and those who like a bet is that there’s plenty of course form to peruse. In fact, the greenkeepers must work 24/7 as, amazingly, Delhi Golf Club hosts three Asian Tour events per year!
It’s staged 10 of the last 12 Indian Opens, has been the home of the SAIL Open since 2010 and, somehow, it’s still found time to host all four editions of the Panasonic Open (2011-2014).
Winners of previous events at Delhi Golf Club (last 5 years)
2014 Panasonic Open: 276 S.S.P. Chowrasia
2014 SAIL Open: 279 Rashid Khan
2013 Indian Open: 275 Siddikur Rahman
2013 Panasonic Open: 279 Wade Ormsby
2013 SAIL Open: 273 Anirban Lahiri
2012 Panasonic Open: 277 Digvijay Singh
2012 SAIL Open: 274 Anirban Lahiri
2011 Indian Open: 268 David Gleeson
2011 Panasonic Open: 275 Anirban Lahiri
2011 SAIL Open: 272 Kiradech Aphibarnrat
2010 Indian Open: 277 Rikard Karlberg
2010 SAIL Open: 268 Rikard Karlberg
Eye-popper: Anirban Lahiri, who won the Malaysian Open two weeks ago, has hoisted the trophy there three times!
Designed by General J.H. Wilkinson in 1951 and redesigned by Peter Thomson across 1976/77, Delhi GC has Bermuda fairways and undulating Tifdwarf greens set to run at 10.5 on the stimp. The flat layout features bushes left and right of every fairway and accuracy off the tee will be important. Par has been reduced from 72 to 71 due to the 14th hole now being played as a 476-yard par 4. It’s also short at just over 7,000 yards. Indian star Shiv Kapur says of Delhi GC, “The course is very different from what we’ve played on Tour the last few weeks and especially the Middle East. You hit very few drivers off the tee but lots of irons. It’s all about position off the tee so it’s not a bomber’s golf course. You need to be patient and bide your time. It would suit someone like Miguel (Angel Jiménez) down to a tee.”
The European Tour website reports weather we’d typically associate with India – “dry and warm”. How warm? Well, forecasts suggest high 80s and perhaps touching 90 in Sunday’s final round. There’s also the chance of fog or haze in the mornings which could delay the early tee-times.
The Leading Contenders
He’s the ultimate course horse in this week’s field having posted a trio of wins on the track. Lahiri says, “The Dehli GC is always special, as it gave me my first three wins and last year (actually late 2013) I came within a sniffing distance of the Hero Indian Open. I desperately want to add it to my collection and I feel very comfortable at this venue.” You can say that again! As if that wasn’t enough, he won the Maybank Malaysian Open two weeks ago and consolidated with a T21 in the True Thailand Classic on Sunday, firing a 67 in round four. He’s had three top fives in the last five Indian Opens and, not surprisingly, the best of those was a second place at this venue in 2013. This looks a golden chance for Lahiri to win his national Open for the first time.
Miguel Angel Jimenez
The globetrotting Spanish veteran put in a fine display in Thailand last week, despite having to battle flu in the early rounds. A birdie-birdie start on Sunday suggested he would extend his own record as the European Tour’s oldest winner but he eventually finished T7. The 51-year-old has now finished 4th, 20th, 42nd and 7th in his last four events on the European Tour so is still a real force at this level. He even injected a further dose of confidence by whizzing over to Hawaii last month and winning on the Champions Tour. Course form? He has none. This is Jimenez’s first start at Delhi GC but it looks right up his street.
Hend had a glorious chance to win last week’s True Thailand Classic but stalled on the final day and had to settle for tied second. His title challenge came as no surprise as he had some juicy form at Black Mountain. The same can’t be said of his past visits to Delhi GC. The big-hitting Aussie has contested seven events at DGC and never finished better than the T19 he managed on debut in the 2008 Indian Masters. This would all seem consistent with the comments that it’s not a bomber’s track and requires accuracy off the tee i.e. it negates Hend’s big strength.
Delhi is his home club – “I’ll be sleeping in my own bed and will have my mum’s cooking” - so this is a great opportunity for the Indian to shine. He certainly knows how to put his course knowledge to good use as, over the three tournaments staged at Delhi GC (Indian Open, Panasonic Open, SAIL Open), he’s racked up a second, a third and two fourths in his last seven appearances. As for gaining the elusive win, he’ll go into this week’s event in good spirits after a T11 in the True Thailand Classic on Sunday.
Despite a second-round 65, the ‘Big Dolphin’ disappointed in his home True Thailand Classic last week when only T31. That followed a T25 in Malaysia. If he benefits from having less pressure on him this week, he could go well. Meesawat has been a regular visitor to Delhi GC (13 appearances) and was second in the 2012 SAIL Open, third in the 2005 Indian Open and fourth in the 2011 Panasonic Open.
The Aussie will be relishing a crack at this title and deserves to be among the favourites. Delhi GC is a happy hunting ground for Ormsby as he won the 2013 Panasonic Open there and has finished 10th, 11th and 19th in his three other starts on India’s best-known course. He has current form too after a T7 in Thailand last week while he was runner-up on home soil in December’s Australian PGA and fourth in a classy field in November’s Turkish Airlines Open.
The South Korean teenager, who lived in the Philippines for six years when growing up, could be a force to be reckoned with soon. He’s already gone within a whisker of winning on the Asian Tour, double bogeying the final hole when a shot clear in December’s Dubai Open. In the last two weeks he’s popped up again with top 15 finishes in both Malaysia and Thailand and, overall, he’s on a run of five straight top 20s worldwide. A negative is a record of four starts at Delhi GC and course form of 46-MC-MC-54.
After missing all three cuts on the Gulf Swing – a big surprise given his usual consistency – the young Frenchman is slowly finding his feet again. He cashed in Malaysia (although slipped back to finish T60) and improved to T31 in Thailand last week. Wattel has no experience of Delhi GC but has played two previous events in India, finishing T41 and T23 respectively in the 2011/2012 Avantha Masters.
The Aussie was runner-up in the Thailand Golf Championship in mid-December and has finished T31 or better in three of his four starts in 2015 so he’s hovering around without quite getting into contention. His only previous knock at Delhi GC was a T38 back in 2008 but he did finish fourth on his last start in India (2012 Avantha Masters). Another little plus is the second of his European Tour wins came in a co-sanctioned event in Asia (2010 Ballantine’s in South Korea).
Richard T. Lee
Not be confused with Richard H. Lee (PGA Tour and Web.com player) or Richard A. Lee (Aussie Tour player). Richard T. Lee is a Canadian who once teed it up in the U.S. Open when aged just 16. That was in 2007 and after some wilderness years he’s on the rise again. In 2014 Lee won the Asian Tour’s Solaire Open in the Philippines and in the last two weeks he’s banked top fives in the Malaysian Open and True Thailand Classic. In short, he’s one of the field’s hottest players. And, yes, there’s even a bit of course form too. The 24-year-old contested the 2013 Panasonic Open at Delhi GC and was T8.
The Next Rung
Another course form specialist. Chowrasia is a two-time winner at Delhi GC and was the last player to hoist a trophy there. That came in the 2014 Panasonic Open in November while his other victory came in the 2008 Indian Masters. He can also boast a second place in the most recent Indian Open at DGC and hasn’t been outside the top five in his last four tournaments there. His two European Tour wins have both come in co-sanctioned events on his home Indian soil while he was 10th in Malaysia two starts ago.
Atwal has plenty of strong Delhi GC form but you need to blow dust off the cover when looking through his book of achievements there. His victory in the Hero Honda Masters at DGC came 12 years ago while four of his other top fives were betweem 1997 and 2003. Atwal, who won his national title in 1999, isn’t done with yet though as the latest of his eight Asian Tour wins came as recently as December 2014 (Dubai Open). Having won on the PGA TOUR (2010 Wyndham Championship) he has a touch of class and two of his final three rounds in Thailand last week were 67 and 66.
There were three Indians in the top 25 in last week’s True Thailand Classic and Randhawa was one of them after finishing T15. That’s a nice warm-up for his bid to win this tournament for a record fourth time. If you thought Lahiri’s course form was good, Randhawa’s trumps it as he’s won four events at Delhi GC, including this tournament twice. Before we get too excited, though, those wins came back in 1998, 1999, 2006 and 2007. He’s not had a top five in six events at Delhi since 2011 although he was T8 in last March’s SAIL Open.
Jeev Milkha Singh
“I have come so close to winning the Indian Open so many times. I have won the national Open of many other countries like Scotland, Singapore, China and Austria, but it is the Indian Open I want most.” So says JMS. It might actually help if he played in it. Singh, who isn’t sponsored by Hero, hasn’t turned up for this this event since 2008 and, rumour has it, he isn’t a fan of this week’s course (his last start at Delhi produced a modest T19 in the Panasonic Open). Missed cuts on his last two starts (Malaysia and Dubai) further limit his appeal.
How about Bhullar being the home hero this week? He says, “All my wins have come outside India and nothing would please me more than winning at home at the Hero Indian Open, because the sponsors have also backed me over the years.” A T11 in Dubai was a confidence booster although shooting 74-77 in Malaysia was an expected skid off the tracks. Just as unpredictable is his course form. Bhullar has missed three of his last six cuts in tournaments at Delhi GC but during that period he’s also managed a second and a sixth. No top 15s in six appearances at the Indian Open is a surprise.
Tiger. Rory. Sergio. Siddikur. Spot the odd one out. Well, there isn’t one as all four are instantly recognizable by their first names. In fact, Siddukur has been called the Tiger Woods of Bangladesh – a compliment when first used. His achievements include becoming the first Bangladeshi to win on the Asian Tour (the 2010 Brunei Open) but, of particular relevance to this week, he captured the 2013 Indian Open at Delhi GC. Not only that, he’s a real course form stud with 10 top 10s in his last 11 starts at Delhi (seven of those top 5s).
Another whose name flashes up when wading through the copious amounts of course form. The 24-year-old first teed it up here as a 16-year-old (finished T54) and has played 12 more events since. He finished runner-up in the 2013 SAIL Open and, last year, went one better to take the title on the back of a stunning first-round 61. He was also fourth in the 2013 Indian Open held at DGC. Khan missed the cut in Thailand but before that was a respectable T36 in Malaysia.
Much is expected of the young Aussie, who became the first amateur in over 50 years to win the BMW New Zealand Open when he took the trophy there in 2012. And he’s starting to live up to his billing as a future star. In his last six starts he’s compiled three top sevens and a T20. The latter result came in Malaysia two weeks ago where he also scored a hole-in-one. Interestingly, he’s also played in three events at Delhi GC and done quite well (T11 in 2013 Sail Open, T19 in 2013 Indian Open).
The young Spaniard was prominent in the TV coverage in Malaysia last week and thanks to an opening 65 and a closing 66 he posted a tidy T7. It means he’s cashed in his last six starts in Asia and four have been top 25s. He’s been in the top seven for greens in regulation in his last three starts so his iron play is strong. And, yes, the 24-year-old has good course form too. In four visits, it reads 21-32-19-4. That top four came in last year’s SAIL Open.
There aren’t too many Euros in the field this week but Slattery, who played in the 2011 and 2013 Avantha Masters in India (finishing T41 and T48) has made the trip. He’s hard to catch right as he throws in plenty of missed cuts but just two starts ago we saw Slattery near his best when he posted a top three finish in the South African Open. A good putting week and he could figure again.
The American could be big contender here. The 26-year-old has racked up four top 5s and a T10 in his last 13 Asian Tour starts. The most recent (a T5) came in Malaysia a fortnight ago when his straight driving was a good fit for Kuala Lumpur GC (he split 12 of 14 fairways in each of the final three rounds). The European Tour website describes the fairways at Delhi GC as “very narrow” and “difficult to hit” so the short, 7,014-yard track could be right up his street.
A T5 in the South African Open suggested the former U.S. Amateur champion was about to take to the pro circuit like a duck to water. His recent form though is more early Justin Rose and he’s missed three of his last four cuts, shooting two 77s and a 76 in three of his last six rounds. These are the bumps that young players go through so we have to be patient with the 20-year-old Englishman. This is his first start in India.
One of the fairly rare group of Americans who ply their trade on the Asian Tour, Knutzon flourished in Thailand last week and grabbed a share of tied fourth after closing 66-69-67 over the final three rounds. He’s only cashed twice on six visits to Delhi GC but a T15 last time offers some encouragement. The 39-year-old’s last Asian Tour win (he has just two) came back in 2007.
Who’s On The Team
There are some obvious course specialists that can’t be left off this week; namely Anirban Lahiri, Shiv Kapur and Wade Ormsby. All are playing well ahead of their return to Delhi GC.
Miguel Angel Jimenez looks a good fit too.
If you’re having a bet, Kapur and Ormsby (both have excellent recent Driving Accuracy stats) are the best each-way options and also add in straight-hitting American Paul Peterson. He looks to have the perfect game for this particular test and has plenty of good recent form in Asia.
One To Fade
Logic says Scott Hend isn’t suited to this course. It’s short and requires accuracy over distance; Hend is a bomber who misses lots of fairways. His previous results at Delhi GC back the theory up.