Shanghai: Just another golfer in his rookie
season till some time ago, caddie-turned-pro C Muniyappa is
finding it hard to believe that he will rub shoulders with
greats like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in the WGC-HSBC
Champions starting here on Thursday.
The 32-year-old Indian Open champion will join
illustrious compatriots Jeev Milkha Singh and Jyoti Randhawa
and young sensation Gaganjeet Bhullar at the historic first
staging of a World Golf Championship event in Asia.
Muniyappa earned his spot in the USD seven million
showpiece through his sixth place position on the Order of
Merit at the cut-off point for qualifying, thanks to the
career breakthrough victory in the Indian Open last month.
"My dream has always been to play with Tiger. I can`t
imagine that I`m going to be in the same event with him,"
Muniyappa said today.
"Last year, I was watching the big events on TV and I saw
Jeev winning in Singapore. I asked myself when will I have the
chance to play in such big events and I worked really hard.
Now, I`m here," he added.
He is among 11 Asian Tour members who will tee off at the
Sheshan International Golf Club on Thursday.
For a man who caddied for one rupee during his childhood,
Muniyappa has had the opportunity to shoot for a staggering
USD 13 million over the past three weeks on Tour.
"I`m going to try to play my best golf here. In Singapore
last week, I didn`t play well as I didn`t have a visa ready
for China and I was worried about that. But it was a good
experience competing on a tough course. I feel lucky to be
here," said the Bangalorean.
Muniyappa entered his first Asian Tour Qualifying School
this year after a first domestic victory last year following
more than 10 years in the play-for-pay ranks.
During the final round of Q-school, Muniyappa fell
outside the top-40 with four holes remaining after a bizarre
incident where he lost his ball despite hitting a perfect
drive down the 15th fairway.
"I declared a lost ball but when we walked up to my
second ball, I found the first ball lying on the fairway! I
was so angry and made double bogey," he recalled.
"At that point, it was the most pressure that I`ve ever
felt in my life, even more than what I experienced in the
Indian Open play-off. If I didn`t make the top-40, I would not
be able to play on the Asian Tour for a year. I knew I had to
birdie a few holes coming in, and I managed to do so on 16 and
18," he said.
Meanwhile, Bhullar, a talented 21-year-old who won the
Indonesia President Invitational in July, said he would try
and emulate Jeev and Randhawa.
"Four Indians in a WGC event, it`s the first time in our
history. We are producing so many international players and
it`s a great sign for Indian golf," he said.
"It`s all thanks to Jeev, Jyoti and Arjun (Atwal) who
have played well over the years and given the rest of us the
inspiration to emulate them," said Bhullar.
"It feels good to be in a WGC event. The last two years,
I`ve worked really hard and I want to work harder to get into
contention at the big events."
The other Asian Tour stars in the field include
Thailand`s Thongchai Jaidee, Chapchai Nirat and Prayad
Marksaeng, Anthony Kang of the United States, Japan`s Daisuke
Maruyama, Singapore Lam Chih Bing and Chinese Taipei`s Lin
Korea`s Yang Yong-eun, Asia`s first Major champion, will
also challenge for the title which he won in 2006.