Karnataka Golf Association (KGA) course is the happening place as the Hero Indian Open tees off here from Thursday.
The prestigious $1.25 million prize money event is being held for the very first time, south of the Vindhyas, in its 48-year-old history. The Pro-Am event will be played on Wednesday.
The likes of Arjun Atwal and Jeev Milkha Singh are conspicuous by their absence in this 156-players strong field. But the presence of Peter Hanson, a member of the European team that won this year’s Ryder Cup and Richie Ramsay of Scotland, another major player in the European Tour, with their presence has lifted the competitive flavour.
David Gleeson, the defending champion from Australia is back and should provide the thrills.
But the ‘man of the moment’ surely is Kapurthala’s 24-year-old Gaganjeet Bhullar, fresh from his title triumph at the Macau Open last weekend. “It’s a fantastic feeling to win from a strong field and should stand me in good stead for this week.
“There is a whole lot of talent emerging in the Indian golf scenario…and there is responsibility on every Indian golfer to make a mark and be the perfect brand ambassador,” said Bhullar.
He is currently fifth in the Order of Merit and is ranked 10th in the Asian Tour.
Alongside Bhullar is the local star Anirban Lahiri, who has had a wonderful season thus far, barring the last few weeks. “Coming and playing the National Open at one’s home course is a greatest motivation for me…and nothing like the KGA course to find my form again,” said the 25-year-old, who is familiar with the conditions here and knows the greens like the back of his palm.
Shiv Kapur is another talent waiting to hit the high strings since being ‘voted the ‘Rookie of the year’ in 2005, the year he won the Volvo Masters of Asia title, his only title thus far, besides the individual gold at the Busan Asian Games in 2002.
The 30 year old from Delhi admitted, “it’s heartening that the Indian Open is away from Delhi and Kolkata, where it’s always been…and this on a personal note takes a lot of pressure off me…since I’ll be playing away from home, which am sure Lahiri (Anirban) is feeling now.”
C. Muniyappa, the 2009 Indian Open champion is fighting fitness issues, which has kept him away from the game for almost a year and half, is keen to come back strongly in front of his home fans.
“Am not fully fit yet…but it (Indian Open) being played on my home course I wish to give it a shot,” said the 35 year old caddie-turned pro.
The course and the fairways won instant appreciation from the golfers. “The fairways are narrow…but the ‘greens’ look brilliant and it should be four days of exciting golf,” echoed Peter Hanson and Richie Ramsay, both of whom played a few rounds ahead of the High Skills Challenge in the evening.
David Gleeson, who was out of action for over five months with a stomach ailment, was all acclaim for the course and the atmosphere and if the weather holds good (it’s been raining in the evenings for the last few days in Bangalore) the enthusiasts who generally throng the courses for major events, will surely see a feast of golf, till Sunday.
Keywords: Indian Open