New Delhi: A two-time winner on European tour, SSP Chowrasia will spearhead the home challenge at the Indian Open but all eyes will be on defending champion Rikard Karlberg of Sweden and Ryder Cup star Edoardo Molinari when they tee off at the Delhi Golf club from Thursday.
Molinari, a member of the 2010 Ryder Cup winning team, would be playing in India for the first time and the world number 55 Italian golfer will face a tough competition from Asian Tour players Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand, who won the title in 2005, and Jbe Kruger of South Africa, besides a host of Indian golfers.
"I arrived here on Tuesday, I was jetlegged but I played nine holes yesterday and 18 holes today and the course is nice. It is playing well. It suits me," said Molinari, a two-time winner on the European Tour.
"I have been playing steady golf, made a lot of cuts. I didn`t putt very well but since last week my putting has improved and hopefully I will putt well here and finish the season on a high," he added.
Defending champion Karlberg, who won the Sail Open and the Indian Open last year, too will be hoping to regain his touch this week after having a mixed season this year.
"It is a great feeling to be back but things will be a bit different than last year. It rained a bit here and so the fairways are softer. It would be more challenging this year," Karlberg said.
"It would be a tighter field this year and so the winning score would be low, say, around 14-under. It would be tough to hit birdies but it would be relatively easier to get on with the course though," he added.
Among the Indians, the onus would be on Chowrasia, who is ranked second in the Order of Merit, Himmat Rai and Anirban Lahiri to lead the home charge.
Chowrasia lead the Order of Merit for a long time after landing the Avantha Masters title on home soil in February but recently slipped back to second place behind Japan`s Tetsuji Hirasuka following an uncharacteristic run of missed cuts.
The Kolkata golfer will look to resume his love affair with DGC where he had burst into the scene three years back, winning the Indian Masters.
"It`s always a great feeling to come back at this course where I won the Masters in 2008. Right now, my rank in Asia is No 2 and I would like to do well here in order to get back to the top," said Chowrasia, who had finished second at the Indian Open twice earlier.
Himmat, who grabbed the ISPS Handa Singapore Classic last month before winning the DLF Masters earlier this month, will look to carry on his form and prove his mettle at Indian Open.
Anirban Lahiri, who won his maiden international title at the Delhi Golf Club course in April when he clinched the Panasonic Open, will also be a contender for the title.
"I won my first Asian Tour title here and have been playing well. I would stick to the same strategies and look to execute them properly this week," he said.
"The course is much drier than it was in April. The wind has also changed so lot of holes with play into the wind, the fairways are playing softer and the greens are not as true as I would like it.”
"But it might be advantage for Indian golfers as we have played under such conditions before. But luck will also come into play in the greens, putting will be important," he added.
Three-time winner Jyoti Randhawa, who has endured a tough season, will relish the familiar Delhi Golf Club and hope to find his lost touch.
Two-time Asian tour winner, Gaganjeet Bhullar, who won the inaugural Gujarat Kensville Challenge to become the first Indian player to win a tournament on the Challenge Tour, will also look to get back to his winning ways.
Shiv Kapur will also try to improve his third placing last year when he tees off on Thursday. He was eighth in his maiden appearance at the Indian Open as a professional in 2005 and a year later he was tied 21st.
It will also be a battle of retaining the Asian Tour card for Digvijay Singh, who is currently in 76th position on the Order of Merit.