Indian Open Preview, Picks & Analysis
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
ANIRBAN LAHIRI has proved that he is right at home alongside the world's very best golfers on the PGA Tour, and this week he returns to his homeland with his sights set firmly on winning the Hero Indian Open. Lahiri leads a star-studded field at the Gary Player course at DLF Golf and Country Club and would dearly love to win his national open title.
Co-sanctioned by the European Tour and Asian Tour for the third time since 2015, the Hero Indian Open has enjoyed a significant increase in prize money, which is almost six times more than $300,000, when Hero took on the Indian Open in 2005.
The tournament was won 12 months ago by another Indian star, SSP Chawrasia. Lahiri and Chawrasia have either won or finished second in each of the last three editions of the event. Having finished runner-up on four occasions in 1999, 2006, 2013 and 2015, Chawrasia finally pipped fellow Lahiri and Korea’s Jeunghun Wang to the title in 2016, just a year after Lahiri had beaten Chawrasia in a playoff in 2015.
Lahiri is a world-class golfer. He has two victories on the European Tour to his credit, along with seven wins on the Asian Tour and 11 successes on the Indian Tour. He also finished fifth at the US PGA championship in 2015 and is absolutely the man to beat this week.
One of the most consistent golfers on the planet over the past 15 months has been Rafa Cabrera Bello, of Spain, and he will also be in India after once again continuing his wonderful form on the PGA Tour. Cabrera Bello will now be growing increasingly frustrated at his inability to turn his wonderful form into a victory and he will surely see the Indian Open as a golden opportunity to put that to bed once and for all. If only it were that simple.
Do you think that recent winner Brett Rumford, classy Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat, American Peter Uihlein, South African George Coetzee and Australia's Scott Hend will stand back and say to the Spaniard: "No, we insist, after you Rafa." You bet they won't. If Cabrera Bello is to lay this bogey to rest then he is going to have to be at his very best. And don't write off Chawrasia's chances of making a successful defence.
Hend is a mercurial talent, capable of producing unbelievable bursts of low scoring. He would be the first to admit that he has struggled to control an explosive temper but, now in his 40s, the Australian seems to have finally calmed down. He hits the ball a very long way and possesses a short game that it hugely underrated. When he is on song, Hend can win anywhere.
And it is surely time that Aphibarnrat got his act together once again. The big man has a wonderful attitude towards the game and a great way of tackling its many challenges. Unlike Hend, nothing seems to get him down. He just stands over the ball, takes a look and hits the ball, and then he goes and does the same thing again. He is a breath of fresh air with an old-fashioned, wristy golf swing. The Thai has great hands but has been struggling recently.
Challenge Tour champion Jordan Smith seems to have decided that he is going to enjoy every single minute of his first season on the European Tour and will be teeing it up in India. It may well be time for somebody close to the Englishman to tell him that he needs to take a break. No matter how good a player you are - and he is VERY good - there is a danger that playing week in, week out will result in you going stale. Smith is a brilliant prospect who feels that he is living the dream, and he will surely win soon - perhaps when he does that he will finally decide to take some time off. For his sake, it is to be hoped that the first win comes sooner rather than later. In saying all of that, I do expect him to be in contention yet again.
Anirban Lahiri. The man to beat
Kiradech Aphibarnrat. Looking for a good week
Rafa Cabrera Bello. Mr Consistency
Anirban Lahiri. Home fans will be willing him on
Kiradech Aphibarnrat. Loves this part of the world
Rafa Cabrera Bello. Desperate for a victory
Brett Rumford. Back to his best
Scott Hend. Can win on any course
George Coetzee. Looking good again
Nicolas Colsaerts. Rediscovering his best
Jordan Smith. Great swing, great temperament
Peter Uihlein. Another win is not far away
SSP Chawrasia. Don't rule him out
Tags: european tour
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