Gurgaon: Seasoned golfer Smriti Mehra and youngster Sharmila Nicollet will spearhead Indian challenge but all eyes will be on defending champion Laura Davies when she tees off at the USD 300,000 Hero Women`s Indian Open at the DLF Golf and Country Club on Thursday.
First Indian woman to become a member of LPGA, Mehra and Nicollet, the current leader on domestic Tour, will be joined by young Nalini Singh Siwach as the trio would look to take on the rest of the world.
"This tournament is a great exposure for Indian women`s professional golfers and we are hopeful for a good result from the Indians this year. I personally have recovered from my ankle injury and have been working hard on my game. I am better prepared this year," Mehra said.
Beside seven-time European Order of Merit winner Davies, the star-studded field will include Sophie Gustafson of Sweden, a four-time winner of the Money List, rookie Caroline Hedwall, who has already won three titles this season, and the flamboyant Christina Kim of the United States.
The 22-year-old Nalini, who won at Punchkula on the woman`s pro tour last month, is unperturbed by the strong field and said she is much more confident now to take on the challenge from the senior colleagues.
"I`m not intimidated by the strong field. I had a good win in Punchkula and I hope to carry on the confidence this week. I have been practicing and it has helped me to be more in contention. I have a long way to go," she said.
Among others Indians, Neha Tripathi and Saaniya Sharma will also tee off tomorrow in a field of 108 players, which also include Sanya Ladies Open champion, Australian Frances Bondad, the Lacoste Ladies Open de France champion Felicity Johnson, Raiffeisenbank Prague Golf winner Jade Schaffer of France, Lalla Meryem Cup winner Zuzana Kamasova and Ashleigh Simon, winner at the Portugal Ladies Open.
However, it would be Davies who once again will be the cynosure of all eyes as she looks to compete with the likes of South African Lee-Ann Pace, the 2010 Money List winner, and two-time Indian Open winner, Phatlum Pornanong of Thailand.
Currently placed third in the money list, rookie golfer Hedwall will also be fancing her chance this week as a win here will take her close to the second position.
"I won three titles in my rookie year, which is amazing. I am satisfied with this year and I`m hoping to have two good weeks and take Mellisa down from the second place. It seems impossible to catch up with Ai (Miyazoto). So I am hoping to finish at least second," said Hedwall, who was part of the Solheim Cup winning team for Europe.
Among others, Becky Brewerton and Trish Johnson will also return to India for the first time in four years along with Gwladys Nocera from France, who won the LET`s EMAAR-MGF Indian Ladies Masters in Bangalore in 2007.
The Hero Women`s Indian Open is a co-sanctioned event between the Ladies European Tour, the Ladies Asian Golf Tour and the Women`s Golf Association to India.