The season-opening SAIL-SBI Open has attracted a stellar line-up of stars from the Asian Tour with five players from the top-10 of last year’s final Order of Merit and 13 of the top-20 committed to the tournament next week.
Title holder Anirban Lahiri, who finished third on the Merit list last season, will spearhead the local hopes once again at the Delhi Golf Club (DGC) from Feb 26 to March 1 against a field which includes EurAsia Cup teammates Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh and Malaysia’s Nicholas Fung, the 2013 Asian Development Tour No.1.
Former Order of Merit champions Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand and India’s Jyoti Randhawa will also be back to challenge for the title at a venue where they have tasted success in the past.
Other leading lights who have signed up for the $300,000 tournament include Thailand’s Prayad Marksaeng, winner of the season-ending King’s Cup Golf Hua Hin in January, countrymen Prom Meesawat, Chawalit Plalphol, Chapchai Nirat and Arnond Vongvanij, Filipino Angelo Que, India’s S.S.P. Chowrasia, Korea’s Kim Gi-whan and American Berry Henson.
Lahiri, who won the SAIL—SBI Open in 2012 and 2013, will need to be at his best as the likes of Chowrasia and Karlberg have also won at DGC previously on the Asian Tour.
The event will also be the first tournament for the recent Qualifying School graduates to shine on the Asian Tour.
Japan’s Akinori Tani, who topped Qualifying School, will be in the fray alongside Singaporean Lam Chih Bing, Korean duo Lee Tae-hee and Shin Hyuk-chul and Pakistan’s Hamza Amin, who earned his Tour card on his third try at the Qualifying School.
India’s Rashid Khan, who lost to Lahiri in a play-off last year, will be back to challenge as a full member of the Tour after a highly successful campaign where he finished 41st on the Order of Merit.
All eyes will be on Lahiri as he seeks to launch his 2014 campaign on a winning note. Following his third Asian Tour success, the 26-year-old went on to register three other runner-up finishes and two more top-fives to rack up $517,030.
Thanks to his career best finish to date, Lahiri also earned a spot in Team Asia to face Europe in the EurAsia Cup next month. The World No.106 Indian is aiming to crack the top-50 this season and a successful title defence here will be the ideal launchpad towards his goal.
“My aim for 2014 will be to get into the top-50 on the world rankings. Of course the ultimate dream is to get into the top-10,” said Lahiri.
Siddikur will be amongst Lahiri’s main rivials as the DGC is also a happy hunting ground for the Bangladeshi. He has achieved numerous top-10s at the venue but none was bigger than his triumph at the 2013 Indian Open where he pushed Lahiri and Chowrasia into second place.
Over the past four seasons, Siddikur has finished top-10 on the Merit list on three occasions which reinforces his growing reputation as one of Asia’s established golfers.
“Winning the Indian Open was definitely the highlight of my season. I’m very happy with that victory and sometimes when I don’t play too well, I reflect on that win to be inspired to do better. It is a memory that I will always remember,” said Siddikur.