Golf has a stout and deep-rooted tradition in Europe and the USA. So, it is rare that an Indian event surprises professionals hailing from these regions. As the $1.25 million Hero Indian Open, celebrating its 50th edition, is all set to start on Thursday, it leaves some foreign golfers wide-eyed.

Michael Thompson, a PGA Tour winning US golfer, hopes to emulate his idol and three-time Major winner Payne Stewart, who had won the title here in 1981. “I would look to follow Payne Stewart. As a seven-year-old, I remember getting his autograph and to play here, where he played and was so successful, is surreal,” said Thompson.

The Asian Tour event, which has travelled five venues in its unbroken five-decade journey, inspires every Indian golfer to give his best. So far, seven Indians, including amateur P.G. Sethi, have lifted this coveted title and three-time winner Jyoti Randhawa (2000, 2006, 2007) stands tall among them.

Currently Randhawa may not be at his best, but local pro Shiv Kapur, who won twice on the Challenge Tour this year to get back his European Tour card, has been going through a fabulous phase in his career and is billed as the top Indian contender for the title.

Kapur, who won the Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour last week, was optimistic. “Hopefully, this time around I can get off and running early,” said Kapur, who had come close to winning the crown a few times in the past.

Jeev absent

Except Jeev Milkha Singh, who is playing in Japan, other prominent Indians such as former winners Arjun Atwal, C. Muniyappa, Ali Sher and Vijay Kumar; the promising duo of Gaganjeet Bhullar and Anirban Lahiri, ranked third and fourth respectively on the Asian Tour Order of Merit; and S.S.P. Chowrasia and Himmat Rai will be seen in action.

Last year’s Avantha Masters champion Jbe Kruger of South Africa, Swedish golfer of Indian origin Daniel Chopra, Jonathan Moore of the US, David Gleeson of Australia and Thailand’s Pariya Junhasavasdikul will be among the overseas players who can throw a challenge to the Indians.

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