Man of the moment Anirban Lahiri hopes to fulfil his childhood dream by winning the US$1.5 million Hero Indian Open which starts on Thursday.
The Indian ace, who won the Maybank Malaysian Open two weeks ago, recalls watching Arjun Atwal win the prestigious event in 1999 and since then, it has been his goal to win his National Open.
“My first memory of the Indian Open is walking in Calcutta Golf Club when I was 12. Arjun Atwal won that event and I still remember some of the shots he hit. I was just a kid and I didn’t even play golf seriously! I thought to myself that it would be so great to be one of those guys,” said Lahiri.
Lahiri, who is the highest ranked player in the elite field where he sits in 39th position on the Official World Golf Ranking, will challenge for honours at the Delhi Golf Club (DGC) against title holder Siddikur Rahman and Miguel Angel Jimenez, who returns to India for the first time since 2008.
Scott Hend of Australia, a six-time Asian Tour winner, Jyoti Randhawa, only the second player to win three Indian Open titles, Thaworn Wiratchant, Jeev Milkha Singh and Marcus Fraser will also feature in the event which is sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour for the first time.
After claiming his biggest career win in Malaysia a fortnight ago, Lahiri, who won three Asian Tour titles at DGC, plans to continue the winning streak by Asian Tour members in the last four co-sanctioned events.
“We have four Asian Tour members win the last four co-sanctioned events. It will be nice to continue that streak. It is nice to have so many of our members winning events but I would like to say that I want an Indian to keep this trophy on home soil.
“This is the event you want to win as an Indian. The Indian Open is a tournament which is steep in history. Delhi Golf Club has such a fantastic history to it. It is definitely one of those events where you want to play and win it,” explained Lahiri.
The 51-year-old Jimenez made a perfect start to 2015 when he won in Hawaii on the US Champions Tour and he is ready to win his 22nd European Tour title at the Hero Indian Open. He also finished tied seventh in Thailand last week.
“I am looking forward to the week at the Delhi Golf Club. I played a few holes this morning and it is an old style course where you do not have to hit the ball 300 yards off every tee. It is much more important to be accurate from the tee and to keep the ball in the fairway because the rough can be very difficult to play from and you can get a lot of fliers,” said Jimenez.
“It’s going to be very difficult to keep the ball under control from the rough, so I think to have a chance of winning you have to be playing from the fairway. The tee shots will be the most important factor this week. If you can keep it in play off the tee then you will build the score from there,” he explained.
The 43-year-old Singh, a two-time Asian Tour number one, has won multiple titles in Asia and Europe but the Hero Indian Open trophy remains as his most sought after prize.
“I’m very excited to be back. It has been a while since I’ve come back to play at my National Open. There’s a lot of history especially on this golf course,” said Singh, whose last appearance at the Hero Indian Open was in 2008 where he finished fourth.
Singh hailed the emergence of the new generation of Indian golfers such as Lahiri and Rashid Khan and he believes more young players will break through the ranks and follow in their footsteps.
“They know what’s the right stuff for them and they work hard at it. That’s the main reason why these young players are doing well especially Anirban. In the future, I think we will see more young players coming from out of India and they will be inside the top-50 in the world,” said Singh.
ASIAN TOUR MEDIA ADVISORY
Prize Money: US$1.5 million (winner’s purse: approximately US$497,427)
Venue: Delhi Golf Club
Starts: From February 19, Thursday till February 22, Sunday.
Top Contenders: Siddikur Rahman (Ban) – defending champion, Anirban Lahiri (Ind), Thaworn Wiratchant (Tha), Andrew Dodt (Aus), Miguel Angel Jimenez (Esp), Scott Hend (Aus), Rashid Khan (Ind), S.S.P. Chawrasia (Ind).
Fast Facts – 2015 Hero Indian Open
- The 2015 Hero Indian Open will be the 51st staging of India’s prestigious National Open.
- The Hero Indian Open will be co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour for the first time.
- The Hero Indian Open will offer a prize fund of US$1.5 million. The Delhi Golf Club will host the event from February 19 to 22.
- Siddikur Rahman will defend the title which he won in 2013 with a winning total of 14-under-par 274.
- Jyoti Randhawa will be aiming for an unprecedented fourth Indian Open title. He won the event in 2000, 2006 and 2007. Peter Thomson of Australia also holds three Indian Open trophies.
- Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand seeks a record equalling third Hero Indian Open title. He won the event in 2005 and 2012.
- Anirban Lahiri, who won the Maybank Malaysian Open two weeks ago, Andrew Dodt of Australia, winner of the True Thailand Classic, will also feature in the event alongside Miguel Angel Jimenez.
- More than 30 Asian Tour winners from 20 different nationalities are in the elite field this week.
- The venerable Delhi Golf Club will be played to a par-71.
- Liang Wen-chong of China holds the par-72 course record at the Delhi Golf Club when he opened with a 12-under-par 60 at the 2008 Hero Indian Open.
2013 Mohammad Siddikur (Ban)
2012 Thaworn Wiratchant (Tha)
2011 David Gleeson (Aus)
2010 Rikard Karlberg (Swe)
2009 C. Muniyappa (Ind)
2008 Liang Wen-Chong (Chn)
2007 Jyoti Randhawa (Ind)
2006 Jyoti Randhawa (Ind)
2005 Thaworn Wiratchant (Tha)
2004 Mardan Mamat (Sin)
2003 Mike Cunning (Usa)
2002 Vijay Kumar (Ind)
2001 Thongchai Jaidee (Tha)
2000 Jyoti Randhawa (Ind)
1999 Arjun Atwal (Ind)
1998 Firoz Ali (Ind)
1997 Ed Fryatt (Eng)
1996 Hidezumi Shirakata (Jpn)
1995 Jim Rutledge (Can)
1994 Emlyn Aubrey (USA)
1993 Ali Sher (Ind)
1992 Stewart Ginn (Aus)
1991 Ali Sher (Ind)
1990 Andrew Debusk (USA)
1989 Remi Bouchard (Can)
1988 Lu Chien-soon (Tpe)
1987 Brian Tennyson (USA)
1986 Lu Hsi-chuen (TPE)
1985 Tony Grimes (Nzl)
1984 Rafael Alarcon (Mex)
1983 Junichi Takahashi (Jpn)
1982 Hsu Sheng-san (Tpe)
1981 Payne Stewart (Usa)
1980 Kurt Cox (Usa)
1979 Gaylord Burrows (Usa)
1978 Bill Brask (Usa)
1977 Brian Jones (Aus)
1976 Peter Thomson (Aus)
1975 Ted Ball (Aus)
1974 Kuo Chie-Hsiung (Tpe)
1973 Graham Marsh (Aus)
1972 Brian Jones (Aus)
1971 Graham Marsh (Aus)
1970 Chen Chien Chung (Tpe)
1969 Ben Arda (Phi)
1968 Kenji Hosoishi (Jpn)
1967 Kenji Hosoishi (Jpn)
1966 Peter Thomson (Aus)
1965 P.G. Sethi (amateur) (Ind)
1964 Peter Thomson (Aus)