By: Daniel Chopra
There is unmistakable excitement about playing the Hero Indian Open. It is the international tournament I have had most fun playing and it is the one which I remember having played most. For years I would come for it each while I playing in Asia and Europe. Then when I went over to the PGA Tour I skipped it a few times.
But for the last few years the scheduling of Hero Indian Open has allowed me to come back each year. I have great memories of finishing runner-up back in 1995 and 1996. The first time it was Jim Rutledge, who won the Trophy and the next year it was Japan’s Hidezumi Shirakata. On the first occasion tied with me was Bob May, who a few years later lost a play-off to Tiger Woods at the PGA Championships in Valhalla in 2000. In 1996 I was tied with Basad Ali, a legend in Indian golf, and Jyoti Randhawa, who went on to win the event three times.
Over the 20-odd years that I have played I have always wanted to win this — because this is the one I consider as ‘my’ National Open and the DGC is ‘my’ home course. I grew up in Delhi and learnt all my golf at DGC. For me the Indian Open is homecoming with the food, the ambience and the old friends.
Talking of this year’s edition, the winter has taken a heavy toll. And the fairways are not green as they usually are at DGC. But what I will miss most if the 14th being a par-5. It is now par-4 and the par for the course is 71. Usually the 14th is one where you generally see if there is an eagle chance and a birdie on 15th means a challenger can still make a charge on Sunday on the back nine. But that may not be so.
Yet be sure there will be ample drama with the Indian starcast going deep with some many winners, with the current stars like Anirban Lahiri, Rashid Khan, SSP Chowrasia and my old friend, Arjun Atwal in full flow. We also have Miguel Angel Jimenez, one of the great characters of world golf, and the smiling Thaworn Wiratchant, who like Jimenez seems to get better with age. Together they will make for another compelling edition of Hero Indian Open.