Rakesh Rao

MANESAR (Haryana): After eight seasons, an Asian Tour event returns to the Jack Nicklaus-designed Classic Golf Resort here on Wednesday with the second edition of the $300,000 SAIL Open golf tournament.

For well over a decade, the triumphs of home talents in the dollar-events in the country have helped the sport gain corporate and media support.

The sport has grown like no other in the country and Indian golfers are increasingly gaining the respect of their peers on other Tours.

No wonder then, even in these days of global economic slowdown, SAIL has managed to hold the event (it was $400,000 last year) obviously with a hope to see an Indian raising the winner’s trophy on Saturday.

The event, only the second dollar-event in the country besides the premier Indian Open, has attracted among others, Jyoti Randhawa, winner of the Thailand Open less than a fortnight back, S.S.P. Chowrasia, European Tour card-holder Shiv Kapur, seasoned Thai campaigners like former Indian Open winner Thaworn Wiratchant and Chapchai Nirat, besides last year’s Volvo Masters of Asian winner Singapore’s Lam Chih Bing. Defending champion New Zealand’s Mark Brown was a late withdrawal from the event.

The 42-year-old Wiratchant will be looking to equal the record of 11 titles on the Asian Tour held by his compatriot Thongchai Jaidee, another former Indian Open winner. Randhawa, of course, will be the favourite, both based on his form and track record on home courses.

Putting the key

“Since 2000, when I won my first Indian Open here, the course has matured. It is more tree-lined than before. Earlier, one could drive without a care and still have a good shot to the green. It is not so now. I wish the “rough” could be up but I guess, due to the severe winter, it could not be helped. I think the greens are playing better than ever before. Putting will hold the key this week,” he said.

Chowrasia, fourth behind Randhawa in the Thailand Open, said the greens were playing really fast.

“By Randhawa’s standard they are slow because he plays on the European Tour but for most of us on the Asian Tour, it is really quick,” said the mild-mannered Chowrasia and agreed with Randhawa by saying, “the one who with minimum number of putts will win on this course.”

More In: SPORT | Today's Paper