Indian golfers mount a strong challenge at Avantha Masters | other | Hindustan Times
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Indian golfers mount a strong challenge at Avantha Masters

other Updated: Feb 13, 2011 14:49 IST
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The region's elite golfers, spearheaded by a very strong Indian challenge, will be eager to get their 2011 Asian Tour season off to a flying start when they tee up at the co-sanctioned Avantha Masters next week.

The event is co-sanctioned with the European Tour.

The Euros 1.8 million (approx $2.3 million) showpiece will be staged from February 17 to 20, 2011 at the DLF Golf and Country Club.

The Avantha Masters is the biggest professional event in India. Started last year with a purse of Euros 1.5 million, it has increased the purse by 20 per cent this year adding to thee excitement.

Defending the title will be Andrew Dodt of Australia.

The local brigade will be spearheaded by Asian Tour honorary member and two-time Order of Merit winner Jeev Milkha Singh, who will be hoping to bounce back after a dismal 2010 season plagued by injuries.

"I just want to prepare myself to be injury-free in 2011. Becoming fit, and keeping that way, is definitely my priority number one. And if I can manage to do that, I think I will be able to achieve all my other ambitions.

"2010 was a stop-and-start one and I had absolutely no momentum. Just when I thought I was getting back into the swing of things, I got injured again. It was extremely frustrating," Singh wrote in his blog.

All eyes will also be on Gaganjeet Bhullar who got his pre-season preparations off to the best possible start when he won three titles in a row and then had another top-10 last week.

"I am currently on a winning streak there is a lot of positive energy around me and that helps me come through even in tough situations. This is the second hat-trick of titles in my career and it has given me the much-needed momentum ahead of a long and gruelling season," said Bhullar to the media following his third successive domestic win last week.

Indian stars primed for the event also include Rahil Gangjee, who recently qualified for the Nationwide. Gangjee last year had a share of the lead coming into the final round, but faltered on the last day.

Jyoti Randhawa, a five-time winner of Asian Tour events in India, will be hoping to turn his form around and there is Shiv Kapur, who had an excellent outing at the Hero Honda Indian Open in December.

SSP Chowrasia, winner of the Indian Masters the first-ever event in India to be co-sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours in 2008, is also looking to change his fortunes here.

Anirban Lahiri and Himmat Rai, two other talented youngsters will also be raring to go. India's latest entrant into pro ranks, Rashid Khan, will be hoping to add to his amateur reputation which includes an Asian Games team silver medal.

Meanwhile, much will be expected from three-time Asian Tour Order of Merit winner, Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand who currently holds the record of having the most Asian Tour wins with 13 victories.

The Thai intends to keep up his winning ways but knows that he must start putting more consistently to stay in contention weekly.

"I hope to improve my putting as it is crucial to scoring low. It was not very steady last year and I have been working very hard lately to get myself prepared. I have also been working hard in the gym, hoping to hit the ball a bit longer too," said Thongchai.

Other stars poised to spearhead the strong Asian challenge at the tri-sanctioned event between the Asian Tour, European Tour and Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) include Singapore's Mardan Mamat, Japan's Tetsuji Hiratsuka and 2010 Asian Tour rookie of the year, Rikard Karlberg of Sweden who have won seven Asian Tour titles between them.