Phatlum eyes third title in a row

Gurgaon : Thailand`s double defending champion Phatlum Pornanong will aim a hat-trick of titles even as Europe`s number one Lee-Anne Pace and veteran Laura Davis stand in her way at the Women`s Indian Open golf tournament, starting hereon Thursday .

Since bursting into the scene in 2006, Phatlum has recorded a top-10 finish in all the tournaments she has played with four wins -- Hong Kong Ladies Open (2006), Thailand
Ladies Open (2008) and Women`s India Open (2008 and 2009) ?- a record on Ladies Asian Golf Tour.

However, the 20-year-old has been a little off-colour coming into the Indian Open as she finished tied third at the Thailand Open, third at Sanya Open and joint eighth at the
Suzhou Taiho Open.

But the Thai golfer will take heart from the fact that she knows the DLF golf and country course very well and would look to end her season`s title drought here.

"There are many good players here and it is going to be tough. I can only try my best to defend the title. I don`t want to think too much and just play and hope it clicks and I win the title," Phatlum said.

"When I saw the draw this afternoon, I felt very happy to see myself in the same group as Laura. This will definitely help me in my bid to go for a hat-trick as I am confident of
shooting a low score especially playing alongside Laura," she added.

Pace, who won twice and finished seventh once in three starts before this week, will look to cap this weekend with another win to enhance her chances of qualifying for next year`s LPGA tour.

And the LET leader already has made a positive start after she piloted her team, which also had Robert Vadra, Sanya Sharma, Sanjeev, Laroiya to victory in the morning Pro-Am on Wednesday.

But from tomorrow it would be a different story as she will have to battle it out with Davies, who will be eagar to narrow the gap in the European tour`s money list with the
South African.

Davis, who arrived on Monday had her own set of problems as her golf bag went `missing`. She spent the last 48 hours without golf equipment and even had to miss today`s Pro-Am.

Indian challenge will be lead by Sharmila Nicollet, who as been clubbed with Davis and Phatlum, and veteran Smriti `Simi` Mehra.

"Wow! That good`s I`ll get to see her `live`on the fairways together," said the 19-year-old Sharmila after she came to know about the draw.

"I want to win this tournament and become the first Indian women to do so. I have been in good form and my game is also good. Let`s see what the weekend has in store for me,"
she added.

Among others competing in the 122-strong field include former Solheim Cup captain Helen Alfredsson of Sweden, Norway`s Mari Anne Skarpnord, Sahra Hasan from Wales.

A few golfers of Indian origin too will like to make the most of their homecoming like Kiran Matharu of England and Canadians Salimah Mussani and Seema Sadekar.