New Delhi: Jonathan Moore will vie for his first Asian Tour title at the 50th Hero Indian Open at the Delhi Golf Club, a venue which he rates as one of the most unique courses he has ever played on.
The American will be among an elite field including Robert Rock of England, a two-time winner in Europe, Jbe Kruger of South Africa, Pariya Junhasavasdikul of Thailand, a two-time Asian Tour winner, and Daniel Chopra of Sweden at the US$1.25 million Asian Tour event which starts on Thursday.
Arjun Atwal, the first Indian to win on the PGA Tour, Anirban Lahiri, who won three of his Asian Tour titles at the Delhi Golf Club, Gaganjeet Bhullar, ranked third on the Asian Tour Order of Merit and an in-form Shiv Kapur will spearhead the local challenge at the event which is celebrating its golden anniversary this week.
Moore, an Asian Tour regular, feels more comfortable playing at the Delhi Golf Club now compared to his first experience in 2011 where he was caught off-guard by the narrow and tree lined fairways.
“The Delhi Golf Club is unique. I have never played another golf course where guys are taking the drivers out of the golf bag! I’m taking out my driver this week too. I have a three wood that would hopefully do the job,” said the 28-year-old Moore.
“I think this (Indian Open) is the longest running golfing event in India. That just shows how much they love their golf. I think this venue is fitting for the Indian Open’s golden anniversary.”
He enjoyed a solid season in 2012 where he finished seventh on the Order of Merit but has struggled to hit top form this year.
Currently lying in 87th position on the Merit ranking, Moore will need solid result or a victory this week to secure playing rights on the region’s premier Tour for 2014. The top-60 players at the end of the season will earn an Asian Tour card for next year.
“I haven’t had the best year so far but this week is a good week to try and save my card. You just need that one week to get a good finish so hopefully it will be this week,” said Moore.
India’s rising star Lahiri hopes to keep the prestigious National Open trophy on home soil as C. Muniyappa was the last Indian to win the Hero Indian Open title in 2009.
“Coming into this week, I think the whole bunch of us is looking strong to keep the Indian Open title at home. Muniyappa was the last Indian to win the title and since then, no Indian has won it so it will be nice to break that,” said Lahiri.
Lahiri said the Indians will not have a ‘home advantage’ at the Delhi Golf Club, as the course has been a regular venue on the region’s premier Tour which is celebrating its 10th season in 2013.
“Over the years the advantage of playing at Delhi Golf Club has eroded. We have been playing at here so often now. When that happens, whether you are Indian or not, you are playing here at least six or nine times in two or three years. It is a level playing field now,” explained Lahiri.
Englishman Rock, making his debut at the Hero Indian Open, and Kruger, who won his first Asian Tour title in India in 2012, hailed the longevity of the Indian Open.
“I watched this tournament on television a few years ago and I thought the course looked pretty good. It suits my style because it is more tree lined and not necessarily the longest. We play a lot of courses which are really long and it can get a bit boring,” said Rock.
“There are not many events that last as long as the Indian Open! I’m happy with this event as it celebrates its 50 years and it is staged on a traditional course. I think that is what you need to do, to maintain the tradition of a tournament,” he added.
Kruger saluted the strong support from Hero MotoCorp. “Without sponsors, we as a Tour won’t grow. I think as professional golfers we won’t have a job! We would like to say ‘thank you’ as much as we can to Hero. We can’t really thank the sponsors enough. I know they get a lot out of these events but if there weren’t sponsors we won’t have a job!” said the slightly built South African.