We’ve been warned that March will be hotter than usual. But golf – that (to some) mystifying game in which folks are happy to tee off in 40 degrees Celsius or 5 degrees C, stiff ocean breezes or lowland humidity, amid flurries of snow or sideways sleet – doesn’t wait for ideal conditions.
Anyway, the heat at this time of year is bearable, both for those inside the ropes and outside of them. So that sets the stage perfectly for the Hero Indian Open, which returns to the city of Gurgaon for the first time since 2009, with the DLF Golf & Country Club playing host from March 9 to 12.
But there are a couple of key differences between now and then. The layout, for one. Back in ’09, the professionals had to negotiate the Arnold Palmer design, parkland pretty but lurking with demons. This time around, they’ll have to deal with the quirky Gary Player set-up, where you can’t enjoy the scenery too much for fear it might upend your well thought-out course strategy.
It is to Palmer and Player that the modern golfer owes much. The late Palmer, whose swashbuckling game and convivial manner the galleries embraced, made golf big business and a part of the entertainment industry, a sport that was driven as much by star power as by endorsements, while South Africa’s Player was the archetype of the 21st century’s continent-hopping (and super-fit) professional. And eight years on, India’s most prestigious golf tournament has become truly international, sanctioned by the European as well as the Asian tours. Which means a field that’s as cosmopolitan as the Millennium City.
Watch out for past Open champions, and names like Jeev Milkha Singh, Shiv Kapur and Digvijay Singh (each of whom would dearly love to add an ‘Open’ to their resume). Then there are the likes of Gaganjeet Bhullar, Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, and Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello (the highest-ranked player in the field), whose love of the big occasion always makes them title favourites wherever they may be playing. And after his fairytale run at the Dubai Desert Classic, many will be keen to see how the exciting Dubai-based amateur Rayhan Thomas, 17, fares.
Not yet four months ago, India’s Aditi Ashok, just 18, landed her maiden title as a pro at the Hero Women’s Indian Open (also at the DLF). Locals will be hoping that the men’s winner is an Indian too, just like it was in 2009, when laid-back Bangalorean C Muniyappa triumphed (with a go-for-broke fearlessness Palmer would have been proud of), and just as it has been for the past two years, when S S P Chawrasia (2016) Anirban Lahiri (2015) outlasted the field.
Coincidentally, the Indian Open winds down on March 12, a day before Holi. Expect plenty of colour and action over the four days.
Article courtesy of Times of India.