Kapur leads Indian challenge at Asia-Pacific Panasonic golf
Osaka (Japan): Shiv Kapur will lead a bunch of six Indians, including seasoned Jyoti Randhawa and three-time Asian Tour winner Anirban Lahiri at the Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open, which tees off at the Ibaraki Country Club on Thursday.
Apart from Kapur, Randhawa and Lahiri, the other Indians in the field are Himmat Rai, C Muniyappa and Digvijay Singh, each of whom has one Asian Tour win each against their names.
Digvijay, interestingly won the Panasonic Open India in 2012, while Anirban Lahiri won the same title in 2011.
In addition to the title at the Yen 150 million (approx. USD 1.48), the players will also be jostling for a place in the top-10 of the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
The top-10 as on October 7, will get to qualify for the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, an event that is jointly sanctioned by the Asian and US PGA Tours.
Currently, there are three Indians -- Gaganjeet Bhullar (second), Lahiri (seventh) and Kapur (ninth) on the Order of Merit. Bhullar is not playing in Japan this week, having opted to tee up at the Dunhill Championships in Scotland on European Tour.
The top-two on Order of Merit also qualify for the USD eight million WGC-HSBC Champions event in China.
Rising star Lahiri, a three-time Asian Tour winner, will not have any injury doubts even though he has yet to fully recover from a knee injury. It will be a big week for Lahiri as a victory will put him in firm position to qualify for the WGC-HSBC Champions in China.
Lahiri, seventh on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, will need to secure at least a third or second ranking on the Merit list by October 14 to qualify for the showpiece.
"I`m still recovering from my knee injury. I`m not a 100 per cent healed but my knee has improved. We had a week`s break so I did a lot of treatment on my knee and worked on my swing. There are no injury worries while I`m playing. I just have to be more careful and not put too much pressure or strain on it," said Lahiri.
Kapur will be hoping to stay on in top-10 to make it to the CIMB Classic.
Japan`s Masanori Kobayashi, who has been searching for form and a putter that took him to victory last year at this event, has changed five putters this season and hopes that a sixth putter change will turn his fortunes around.
The field also includes an in-form Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand, who recently won his 16th Asian Tour title a fortnight ago, Wade Ormsby of Australia, winner of the Panasonic Open India in April.
Current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, Asia`s first male Major winner Y E Yang of Korea, Angelo Que of the Philippines, Jbe Kruger of South Africa, Scott Barr of Australia and Japanese star Yuta Ikeda will also be in the elite field.