Atwal comes home as Indian Open tees off at DGC

New Delhi: Arjun Atwal`s homecoming after the historic PGA Tour title triumph would expectedly hog the limelight even as a rather unassuming defending champion C Muniyappa and Jyoti Randhawa look to strike form at the Hero Honda Indian Open golf tournament teeing off on Thursday.

With Jeev Milkha Singh pulling out due to a back injury, the 47th edition of the USD 1.25 million Asian Tour event has lost some sheen.

But with names such as Atwal, Randhawa, Muniyappa, Shiv Kapur and Indian-origin Swede Daniel Chopra in fray, it promises to be an exciting week nonetheless at the Delhi Golf Course, where the event returns after being held at the DLF Golf and Country Club last year.

Often referred to as the `spiritual home` of the tournament, the DGC will host the `National Open` for the 23rd time.

Atwal, who became the first Indian to win a PGA title by clinching the Wyndham championships trophy in August, is expected to have the largest group of followers when he tees off at the 10th hole along with Thai pro Prayad Marksaeng and Ireland`s former Ryder Cup star Paul McGinley tomrrow morning.

The 37-year-old Orlando-based professional`s last Asian Tour win came in the 2008 Malaysian Open, which was his seventh victory on the circuit. He won the Indian Open in 1999 and is looking for an encore after 11 years.

"It`s still quite fresh in my mind. It was in Kolkata, at my home course. I hadn`t played well coming into it but won the Indian Open. I got a lot of confidence from there on," Atwal said.

"The course is in great condition. I have never seen greens like these during practice. But if it gets windy, this course can get tricky. A winning score could be anywhere between seven-under to 18-under," added the star, whose practice round also drew quite an audience on Tuesday.

Before moving to the US, Atwal had also topped the Asian Tour Order of Merit in 2003.

While Atwal comes into the tournament in reasonably good form, having notched up three top-10s in 13 starts this year, Randhawa would be aiming to rediscover some of his lost touch.

The Delhi-pro has played mostly in Europe this year and has at best struggled but he somehow manages to come up with his best in home conditions.

"There is no better place to get your rhythm and form back than at your favourite hunting ground. I hope, I can recreate the magic this week at the Delhi Golf Club," he said ahead of the event.