Golfer Chikka upbeat ahead of title defence at India Masters

Bengaluru, Oct 27 (IANS) Young golfer S. Chikka of India will begin his title defence in high spirits when the second edition of the India Masters gets underway here on Wednesday.

The 22-year-old, who came through the Asian Tour Qualifying School earlier in January, marked his best performance on the region’s premier Tour when he finished tied-10th at the Tournament Players Championship (TPC) in Chinese Taipei three weeks ago.

Chikka is confident that he can reproduce similar form when he returns to his home course, Eagleton-The Golf Village, for the $120,000 Asian Development Tour (ADT) event.

“I am feeling good about my game. I had my first ever top-10 finish on the Asian Tour three weeks ago. I am going to play the way that I have been playing and I will not make any changes. I am confident with my game right now and I believe it’s in a good shape for my title defence this week,” said Chikka.

Chikka will be spurred by memories of his success last year where he overcame a six-shot deficit to become the first Indian to win on the ADT.

“This is my home course. I was brought up here. The greens are a bit tricky and it’s a hilly course which will be a good challenge for all the players this week. It was a memorable win for me last year as I was trailing by six shots heading into the final round,” reflects Chikka.

“That win gave me a lot of confidence as I went on to secure my Asian Tour card at the Qualifying School earlier this year. It’s going to be a challenging week with so many good players in the field. I will try to stay calm and not get affected by the pressure from playing in front of my home crowd. I will stay relaxed and not think too much.”

Another young Indian talent Khalin Joshi, who finished inside top-10 last year, will be aiming to better his performance when he steps up to the tee.

“My game’s looking good at the moment. I have been working on a few things and I am looking forward to playing this week. The season’s been good so far. I came close to winning on the Asian Tour in Bangladesh. I learned a lot from that week. I hope that experience will help me this week,” said the 23-year-old who enjoyed a tied-second finish in Bangladesh.

“Eagleton is not a very long golf course. Your short game has to be sharp to score well out there. I don’t want to over-think about anything just yet. I am just really excited to be part of this event. I believe I have a good chance of winning as my game is in good shape.”

Chikka and Joshi will spearhead the local charge alongside Asian Tour regulars Rashid Khan, Rahil Gangjee, Digvijay Singh, Himmat Rai and Chiragh Kumar, who recently secured his Asian Tour card for 2016 after finishing tied-second in Macao.

Other notable players in the field include ADT Order of Merit leader Casey O’Toole of the United States, Australian Jake Stirling, Thammanoon Sriroj of Thailand, James Byrne of Scotland and Japanese Masaru Takahashi, placed fifth on the Merit rankings.

The top-5 finishers on the final Order of Merit will earn playing rights in the 2016 Asian Tour season. The winner of the India Masters will take home a prize purse of $21,000 and receive six Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points.

With the 2016 Olympics looming where golf will be reintroduced as a medal sport, players in the region could earn their spots in Rio de Janeiro by earning OWGR points through the Asian Tour and ADT.

The ADT is celebrating its sixth season where it has grown immensely from five events in the first year in 2010 to a record 27 tournaments in 2015.

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