Mumbai: Having made a spectacular rise from an obscure 600 in the world rankings to under 200 this year, up and coming young Indian golf professional Rashid Khan is determined to break into the top 100 in the New Year.
"It has been a really good year (2014) for me. I won two Asian tour titles (Sail-SBI Open in Delhi and Chiangmai Golf Classic in Thailand) and am leading in the PGTI Super Series standings (in Mumbai)," said the 23-year-old Delhi golfer here on Friday.
"It feels good to be in the top-200. I'm 197 now. If I can play all my Asian Tour tournaments next year, I hope to break into the top 100 and join Anirban (Lahiri-ranked 70). That's my aim for the the next year."
Rashid, a silver medal winner at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou after which he turned pro, is at present No 2 in the PGTI earnings list for the year with an intake of over Rs 25 lakh, behind Shankar Das (Rs 26.87 lakh) but is focussing on the Asian tour.
"This is my 9th or 10th tournament this year. I've played three years on the Indian Tour and finished as No 1. I just want to focus on the Asian Tour. It's going to be a busy 2015 for me as I will be playing anywhere between 20-25 tournaments," said Rashid, whose uncle Maqbool was a top player.
Rashid's progress since he turned professional in 2011 has been impressive. He was No 3 in the 'Order of Merit' on the Indian circuit in his debut season, rose up to No. 2 in 2012 and was ranked No.1 last year.
"I am progressing every year and I'm very happy with my game. I have been doing well since the time I turned pro, always finishing in the top-three in whichever tournament I have taken part."
The young golfer has accumulated 3155.50 points in the five Super Series events gone through this year, 1400 points clear of the next-best player - Anura Rohanna of Sri Lanka.
A top five finish here tomorrow in the ongoing CG Open Super Series event, the penultimate one, would help him maintain the lead and put him firmly in sight of the bonus fund of Rs 30 lakh offered for the first time this year by the Professional Golf Tour of India.
"I intend to play the last PGTI Super Series event in Noida next week and then an Asian Tour event (USD 500,000 Dubai Open) in UAE before ending the year with the (Rs 1.5 crore) McLeod Russel Tour Championship (Dec 25-28) in Kolkata. I hope to end the year on a high," said Rashid.
"I did participate in European tournaments. I took part in the Omega European Masters in Switzerland. You get to learn from the players there. I'm looking forward to gaining more exposure in such tournaments there."
The Delhi professional said that while more Asian Tour golf events would be welcome in India, still it would be important for the country's golfers to go overseas and play.
"It will be great to have more Asian Tour tournaments in India. It'll be a boost for the morale of the Indian players. But what we mustn't forget that it is also important for us to go abroad
and get that exposure."
"The level there (overseas) is much higher, and that is when a player realises the difference in standard. Any golfer seeking to improve his game needs to play tournaments abroad. There are no two ways about that," said the talented youngster.
The golfer, who loves to play cricket in which he is an all-rounder, said the top ten finishers in the Indian circuit can be "fine" earning their livelihood from the sport but for anyone who finishes beyond that life can be "tough."
According to the young professional, who has won one PGTI titles out of eight appearances this year and who made the cut in all eight events he had taken part of so far, this year the prize money on the circuit has not been very good.
"The prize money has hit a downward spiral for the past two years. Right now, the player who is No 1 on the list (Shankar Das) is only on Rs 26 lakh. I don't know what the problem is.
"We can't help it. We have to make the most of whatever tournaments we get to play. Many a time we see golfers having to pay from their own pocket. If you're in the top-10 you're fine, outside that is a problem."