A sizeable home contingent will tee off at the USD 750,000 The DGC Open at the Delhi Golf Club on Thursday, hoping to make the most of the largest Asian Tour event scheduled for the year on Indian soil.
With the prize purse boosted by a solid 50 per cent from the half million dollars offered last year, the stakes are far higher and the field correspondingly stronger with 40 of the top 60 on the Tour’s Order of Merit represented in New Delhi this week.
More than a few Indians have come into the event with good recent form, none more so than Bangalore’s Chikkarangappa S., who brought in a top-10 finish last week at International Series Thailand at Hua Hin. Chikka, as he is popularly known, will tee off on Thursday alongside city-mate Khalin Joshi and Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai, currently 24th on the Order of Merit.
“Every Indian player wants to do well at the DGC, it has so much history,” Chikka said on the eve of the event on Wednesday. “I’ve had a decent start to the year including a top-10 at Black Mountain last week so my game is in a good space. I’ve been spending time with my putter to try and keep the shoulders stable as most of our important putts are made from inside eight and 10 feet.”
“The wind seems less this year as compared to 2022 but that could change and as of now the greens look and feel much softer than they were last year. I’m quite excited about this week,” he was quoted as saying in a release on Wednesday.
For Kolkata golfer Viraj Madappa, a winner at this venue in his junior years as well as a professional event –he won a PGTI event at the DGC in 2022), the DGC is almost a home course.
“I don’t think I even need a yardage book here, I’ve played the DGC so often. So long as you’re putting the ball in the right place, it should be good. And that’s the only thing I think that’s important on this golf course – anyone who puts themselves in good positions and has a halfway decent putting game has a good chance of contending,” he said.
Madappa conceded he had not reached the levels expected of him from the early years but said he needed time away from golf as the schedule and travel had all become a load recently.
“I’ve only played two events. I took a break in February. I didn’t play most of February as I just wanted to take some time off. The game’s still a little rusty.
“I was tired of playing golf. I was tired of the travel, tired of everything that came with professional golf, I think over the last couple of years it all built up. I think it got to a stage where I got into Saudi and all the big events and I just didn’t feel like my heart would be there. So I wanted to take some time off.
“For me, it has been about enjoying the game and playing good golf, never been about winning golf tournaments. I’ve always wanted to play well and play up to my ability and I know if I can keep doing that, I’ll be contending.
“I know I haven’t been playing to my potential over the last couple of seasons and I think that’s also a big reason why I wanted the break. I think it’s been mentally taxing also. So for me, I don’t really try and chase golf tournaments, I try and chase playing to my potential and playing good golf.”
For long-time DGC regular Shiv Kapur, playing at the DGC is like turning the clock back.
“This is home in more ways than one for me. My parents used to leave me here and I’ve done things I should not really be talking about here including putting inside the Lal Bangla (a heritage site on which the DGC Open trophy is modelled) which was strictly not allowed.
“There’s a comfort factor in playing here over the years and while I’m now a senior on the circuit, there is so much to learn from playing alongside the younger players as we have to constantly find ways to keep up with them. I congratulate Mastercard on associating with this unique, club-owned event on the Asian Tour and in fact taking it to another level.”
Chikka, Madappa and 47 others will believe they have a good chance of making a mark this week. With a good number being given invitations from the domestic tour as well, the home challenge is a solid one.
Ten-time Asian Tour winner Gaganjeet Bhullar had a solid finish last year, while the likes of Shiv Kapur, a winner at the DGC here in 2017, Rashid Khan, also a winner in DGC, and two-time Indian open winner S.S.P. Chawrasia, the in-form Veer Ahlawat and Honey Baisoya are an ever-present threat.