Gurgaon: Defending champion SSP Chowrasia and seasoned pro Jeev Milkha will lead the Indian charge against a stellar field, including two-time Major winner John Daly, in the only European Tour event hosted by the country -- the USD 2.3 million tri-sanctioned Avantha Masters starting from Thursday.
The first event to be tri-sanctioned by the Asian Tour, European Tour and the Professional Golf Tour of India has been dominated by the host region.
Australia`s Andrew Dodt clinched it the first time around before SSP Chowrasia delighted the crowd with a home victory last year.
The 33-year-old Chowrasia triumphed by one shot over England`s Robert Coles last year to claim his second European Tour title following his victory in the Indian Masters in 2008, when he became the first player to win on his debut appearance as an Affiliate Member.
Chowrasia, whose form took a hit after last year`s triumph, is hoping to regain the touch that brought him the title.
"I`ve been practising hard and I`m feeling really good. I`ve done a bit of work on my swing over the off-season and it`s paying off. I`m feeling very confident about my game," said Chowrasia.
"Last year was amazing to win in front of the home fans and great for Indian golf and Indian players. I was so happy.”
"I have great memories of the DLF Golf Club from last year so I am very much looking forward to going back. To win again and make it three times in Delhi would be unbelievable," he added.
Also in the fray is Jeev Milkha Singh. The 40-year-old was the first Indian to qualify for the European Tour and has won three titles, the last of which was in 2008.
He has also won the Asian Tour Order of Merit twice, in 2006 and 2008.
"It`s the third year in a row we have had a European Tour event in India, which is fantastic. The DLF is a great golf course, and of course it`s always a treat to play in front of your home crowds. I get a lot of support from the people there. I`m really looking forward to it," said Jeev.
Another name to watch out for is Rahil Gangjee who, in 2010, was among the seven players tied for the lead after three rounds at the Avantha Masters.
Gangjee, who shifted base to the United States last year to compete in the Nationwide Tour, has given a decent account of himself on the PGA Tour. He was second at Asian Tour Q-School and also the Gujarat Kensville Challenge, an event on the European Challenge Tour last month.
Shiv Kapur is also aiming for his first Asian Tour title since 2005, when he won the Volvo Masters of Asia in Thailand. Shiv finished 24th on the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
Youngsters like Anirban Lahiri, Gaganjeet Bhullar, Himmat Rai and Chiragh Kumar are also among the contenders for the title.
Lahiri and Himmat won their maiden pro titles on Asian Tour in 2011 while Chiragh topped the PGTI Order of Merit list in 2011 and also secured his Asian Tour card.
Among the international stars in fray are 2004 British Open winner Todd Hamilton of the United States and American Peter Uhlhein, the former world number one amateur.