For an Indian golfer, this week is as huge as any major championship. After all, it is the Indian Open, the one tournament any of us would love to win.
We have a brand new venue this year — the Gary Player course at DLF Golf & Country Club, just at the outskirts of Delhi in Gurgaon. The tournament, which is one of the oldest in Asia, started in 1964 and used to alternate between the Delhi Golf Club and the Royal Calcutta Golf Club. But starting this century, it has mostly been held in Delhi, with the exception of Bengaluru a few years ago.
Delhi Golf Club has been a very good venue for the Indian players. Given the unique setting and layout, local knowledge is extremely useful there. It’s a course where you need to have a deep understanding of the topography. And that is one of the main reasons why the Indian players, who have played the course so often, have been very successful there.
The Gary Player course in DLF, on the other hand, is a more open golf course, like any parkland course. That levels the playing field for our European and Asian Tour guests.
This is the first time I am playing the golf course and I am very impressed. First of all, it is in great condition. Secondly, it is quite challenging, especially on and around the greens. The putting surfaces have serious undulations, and there are very steep run-off areas.
So, it will be a completely different ballgame from Delhi Golf Club, where the premium was on finding the fairways off the tee. Many players there actually took the driver out of the bag for the week to avoid getting into the deep bushes that line the fairways. But DLF has more open space, so players will definitely be hitting a lot more drivers this week without any concern. But the key will be the approach shots.
If you can keep the ball up on the green and in the right quadrant, you will have a much better chance to score.
The tournament features some of the best Indian professional and amateur golfers, including the Dubai-based Rayhan Thomas, who is our No. 1 amateur player now. The attention, I am sure, will be Anirban Lahiri and the defending champion Shiv Shankar Prasad Chawrasia, who have been consistent features on the leaderboard in the tournament these past few years.
Obviously, I hope one of our local players wins the tournament, because the rewards in the $1.75 million (Dh6.43 million) tournament is much greater than just a decent first-prize cheque. It also means they get exemption for two years in the European Tour, which is a huge motivation.
However, the presence of established European Tour stars like Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, the Asian No. 1 Scott Hend and the up and coming Thai teenager Phachara Khongwatmai, will definitely not make the task any easier for the Indian players.
I really enjoyed what little coverage I could see of the WGC-Mexico Championship. The golf course looked incredible and the enthusiasm of the fans was infectious. Of course, Dustin Johnson deserves all the kudos for playing like the world No. 1 golfer and winning the tournament despite not having his best putting rounds over the weekend.
It was good to see European Tour players like Tommy Fleetwood and Ross Fisher contending for the title, but the one who impressed me the most, once again, was the young Spanish teenager Jon Rahm. I think we may just have found the next European Ryder Cup superstar in him.
(Jeev Milkha Singh is a four-time champion on the European Tour)