New Delhi: Indian golfers, including inform Anirban Lahiri, will be a major force to reckon with at the 51st Hero Indian Open which will held at the prestigious Delhi Golf Club for the 27th time, starting on February 19.
With Indians winning abroad more than ever, they pose the biggest threat to challengers from Asia and Europe.
In 2014, Indians golfers Rashid Khan and SSP Chowrasia won two titles at home, while Anirban Lahiri (2), Rashid Khan and Arjun Atwal clinched crowns outside the country.
In fact, a lot of Indians have tasted success at Asian and European Tour events at the Delhi Golf Club. While Jyoti Randhawa won two of his three Indian Opens at DGC besides two Hero Masters events, Chowrasia has won one co-sanctioned and one Asian Tour event at this venue.
Lahiri won his first three Asian Tour events at DGC and Rashid Khan clinched his first win at the DGC last year, while Atwal won the Hero Masters at DGC in 2000.
Since 1998, when Feroze Ali became only the second Indian professional after Ali Sher (1991 and 1993) to win the Indian Open, Indians have won no less than seven times in the next 16 editions.
Shiv Kapur, who has twice finished in Top-4 at the Indian Open says, "The Hero Indian Open is undoubtedly the biggest event for any Indian and for me to win it will bring me three times as much joy ? it is the National Open, it is my sponsor's event and it is also being hosted at my home club DGC where I grew up playing. So it means a lot to me."
Lahiri, whose first three wins on Asian Tour came at the DGC says, "The DGC is always special as it gave my first three wins and last year I came within a sniffing distance of the Hero Indian Open and I desperately want to add it to my collection and I feel very comfortable at this venue."
Jeev has won 20 times around the world and Bhullar has won five times in Asia, but neither has an Asian or European Tour win at the DGC.
"I have come so close to winning the Indian Open so many times. I have won the National Open of many other countries like Scotland, Singapore, China and Austria, but it is the Indian Open I want most," said Jeev.
Bhullar said: "All my wins have come outside India and nothing would please me more than winning at home and at the Hero Indian Open, because the sponsors have also backed me over the years."
The flagship event of the Asian Tour, which becomes co-sanctioned with the European Tour from this edition, will once again be held at the Delhi Golf Club, which has undergone a change in par and will now play to Par-71 as against Par-72 till last year.
With a very strong field comprising Indian players currently on Asian and European Tours, besides the top stars from the domestic PGTI Tour, the Indians will form almost a quarter of the field of 132.
Leading the Indian challenge will be Lahiri, who at 27 is now the highest ranked Indian in the world at No. 71 and he nurses the goal of breaking into Top-50 to be eligible for the Majors.
In 2014, Lahiri was second on Asian Tour Order of Merit, played two Majors and broke through to earn a card on European Tour by coming through the grueling Qualifying School.
While Lahiri was second in Asia, four other Indians were in the Top-20 of the Order of Merit, underlining the depth of Indian golf.