Johor Baru: A big Indian contingent led by Gaurav Ghei descends onto the Royal Johor Country Club, as the second half of the Asian Tour gets underway with the $300,000 Iskandar Johor Open golf on Thursday.

No less than 14 Indians will tee off at the event.

Ghei, the only Indian to have tasted victory this season, having won the Pine Valley Beijing Open, may not have Jyoti Randhawa, Shiv Kapur or Rahil Gangjee for company but he does have Chowrasia, who must be keen to make the second half as memorable as it was in 2006.

There will also be Digvijay Singh, hoping to find form and rhythm to get a full card for 2008, and Uttam Singh Mundy, who comes back to the Tour for the first time since overcoming a personal tragedy of his wife’s earlier this year.

Also in the fray are Vivek Bhandari, Amardip Malik, Gurbaaz Mann, Arjun Singh, Rahul Ganapathy, Harmeet Kahlon, Amritinder Singh, Naman Dawar, Gaganjeet Bhullar and Chiragh Kumar, who has come in on a special invitation.

Randhawa is recovering from a viral which hit him two weeks ago, while Jeev is taking a break. Kapur and Gangjee are playing in Europe this week.

In 7th position

Ghei, who is lying seventh in the UBS Asian Tour Order of merit, knows that the second half has a lot of big money events and another victory could put him in contention for the coveted Order of Merit crown, which has in the past been won by three Indians, Jyoti Randhawa, Arjun Atwal and Jeev Milkha Singh.

Ghei has $213,629 in earnings and is about $215,000 behind leader Liang Wen Chong, who is bidding to become the first Chinese golfer to take Asia No.1 position.

Thailand’s 24-year-old Chapchai Nirat who spent three weeks in a Buddhist temple and leant to become a monk, is hoping that it will help him earn more success. He enters the week as one of the favourites. He is currently fourth on the Asian Tour rankings.

Chapchai broke through in a big way earlier this season by lifting the TCL Classic in China, becoming only the third Thai to win a co-sanctioned event.

He has registered four other top-10s but as he enters the second half of the Asian Tour season, the Thai is some USD 180,000 behind current leader Liang Wen-chong of China.

Liang and Australian Scott Hend, third on the ranking, are amongst the top favourites this week. The field also includes 2005 Asian Tour No. 1 Thaworn Wiratchant.

The Iskandar Johor Open is making its debut on the Asian Tour and is supported by the Johor state government and the Iskandar Region Development Authority (IRDA). — PTI

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