Himmat victory, a testimony to India`s golf talent pool
New Delhi: Himmat Rai`s sensational win at the ISPS Handa Singapore Classic once again demonstrated the incredible depth of golf talent in India.
Himmat sank a stunning 25-foot birdie putt at the sixth play-off hole to secure his maiden Asian Tour title on Monday at the Orchid Country Club.
The 24-year-old became the third Indian to win on the Asian Tour this season and the fourth Indian to win on an International Tour this year.
Himmat is the latest in the line of highly talented golfers to have emerged on the Indian and Asian horizon. Himmat, who turned pro in 2006 took some time before winning his first professional title on the Indian Pro Tour in 2009, and this week he broke through for his first Asian Tour title.
The title opens a whole new world with an exemption till the end of 2013 and a spot in all joint-sanctioned events for that period.
The win yesterday fetched him just over USD 47,000 from a USD 300,000 purse and took him into the top-20 of the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
Himmat`s win follows the triumphs of SSP Chowrasia in the joint-sanctioned Avantha Masters in February and the Anirban Lahiri in Panasonic Open (India) in April. Also, Gaganjeet Bhullar emerged a winner in the Kensville Open, the first ever European Challenge in India.
What makes Himmat`s win creditable is that it came on foreign soil, while the other wins came on Indian courses.
In Himmat, Anirban and Gaganjeet Bhullar, already a two-time Asian Tour champion, India have an exciting trio that can take over from the `Big Three` Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal and Jyoti Randhawa, all Asian Tour Order of Merit champions.
Himmat`s win took him up to 18th place on the latest Asian Tour`s Order of Merit where there are six Indians in the top-20. The others are S S P Chowrasia (1st), Shiv Kapur (6th), Sujjan Singh (10th), Anirban Lahiri (11th) and Jeev Milkha Singh (15th).
"A lot of work has been put into the year and this means a lot to me," said Himmat, whose winner`s cheque of USD 47,550 raised his season`s tally to USD 66,565.
Going into the last round as the joint leader, he fell four shots back with a double bogey on the 13th hole. But he refused to panic and stuck to his methodical routine and fought his way back with birdies on 15 and 16 to join the five-man play-off, the most players involved in a shoot-out in Asian Tour history.
He credited his Singapore-based sports psychologist Andrea Furst for his new-found focus.
"I didn`t know I was four back. It shows that if you go about your own business, that`s the best way. I stuck to my game plan and I was really pleased with my finish," he said.
"The hardest part (of the play-off) was to keep my physical energy levels up and mentally keeping aware of the situation and knowing exactly how important every shot was. I stuck to that and hung tough. It paid off in the end.
"Last year, I started working with Andrea and we focused on my routine which helps when you are under pressure. She came in a good time and I thank her," he added.
With four Asian Tour tournaments staged in India, Himmat knows that there is plenty of opportunities for other Indian players to step into the spotlight, just as how Bhullar, Lahiri and himself have done so recently.
The top-60 players at the end of the season will keep their full playing rights for 2012.
The Asian Tour moves to the USD 750,000 Macau Open presented by Cityneon which starts at the Macau Golf and Country Club from Thursday.