New Delhi: Italy`s Edoardo Molinari, the highest ranked player this week, is determined to make the most of his debut at the Hero Indian Open golf starting Thursday.
Molinari, ranked 55th in the world, will spearhead a strong cast of Asian Tour stars assembled at the Delhi Golf Club including SSP Chowrasia of India, currently second on the Order of Merit, an in-form Siddikur of Bangladesh and title holder Rikard Karlberg of Sweden.
India`s rising stars Anirban Lahiri and Himmat Rai will also feature in the $1.25 million event with the aim of battling for national pride. They will be joined by veterans Jyoti Randhawa, a former Asian Tour number one and Ali Sher, the first Indian to win his national Open in 1991.
Molinari will be seeking a third victory in Asia but admits he needs to be at his best to upstage the stellar Asian Tour luminaries.
"It is my first time playing in India and it will be awesome to get a victory here. I have never played in India but I have have played in the other Asian Tour and European Tour co-sanctioned events in Asia and I know some of these guys here will put up a strong challenge," said the 30-year-old.
The Italian previously won in Japan in 2009 and in the same year clinched the 2009 Omega Mission Hills World Cup with his brother Francesco. He has travelled some of the world`s best golf courses but said the Delhi Golf Club holds a distinctive uniqueness with historical monuments being part of the course layout.
"There is a lot of history in this country and on this golf course which explains the monuments on the course. The Indian Open is huge on the Asian Tour and I have been in good form. I just need to get my putter going and hopefully get a win here," he added.
Lahiri knows there is more at stake than national glory as the top six and 10 players on the Order of Merit after the tournament will qualify for the WGC-HSBC Champions in China and CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, Malaysia respectively.
"There is a lot to play for. The winner this week will obviously get into both those two big events. But if you think about the results, you tend to forget about the routine and process so I am going to keep it simply and play smart golf," said Lahiri.
He won at the Panasonic Open (India) on the same course in April and is delighted to return to the venue where he won his maiden Asian Tour title.
"This year has been a complete turnaround for me thanks to Delhi Golf Club. That was really good as it set up my year perfectly. It is nice to be playing here again," he added.
Swedish stalwart Karlberg, the self-proclaimed King of Delhi as he won twice at the Delhi Golf Club in his rookie season last year, plans to continue his reign and turn his season around.
"When I am here I always feel confident because I am a straight shooter which works well on this course. I am here to win and I have proved that I am able to get a good result here," said Karlberg, last year`s Asian Tour Rookie of the Year.
India`s Gaganjeet Bhullar, winner of the two Asian Tour titles, is thinking of pulling out from the tournament as he is struggling to overcome a fever.