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Upward curve continues as Indians move out

Seemingly, not a year goes by when an Indian golfer does not do his country proud.

othersports Updated: Jan 01, 2006 23:08 IST

Seemingly, not a year goes by when an Indian golfer does not do his country proud. In fact, as more take to the fairways and greens of Asia, Japan, Europe and the US, it's no longer a shock to see them doing well. As for winning tournaments consistently, well, that will come with time.

This season has seen more Indians venturing on to the Asian Tour, and holding their own in the company of the continent's best. This is proof that the Indian Tour continues to develop as a nurturer of talent. Shiv Kapur, the Kumars -Mukesh and Ashok -- and Digvijay Singh have been the bright lights on the local circuit. Successful at home, these fellows are now confident enough of pitting their game against the likes of Thaworn Wiratchant and Thongchai Jaidee.

Three years after winning gold at the Busan Asian Games, Kapur finally translated promise into achievement in 2005. Along with the extravagantly gifted Ashok Kumar, he has been tipped for better things, and both are worthy successors to Arjun Atwal and Jyoti Randhawa. Ashok, while some way short of approaching Mukesh's supremacy, has played some brilliant golf over the past three seasons -- on occasions leaving the field staggering in his wake -- and his rivalry with Mukesh has lit up the Tour. Ashok finished fourth at the Myanmar Open and should pose a stiffer challenge next year Though he was pipped by Thai amateur Chinarat Phadungsil in a play-off at the Double A International in Rayong, Thailand, Kapur's form then suggested that a maiden win was just around the corner. He refused to be too disheartened by the near misses -- four top-ten finishes, including one at the Hero Honda Indian Open -- and finally broke through at the Volvo Masters of Asia in Thailand.

The victory provided a fitting finale to Kapur's year and the Delhi golfer had even more reason to smile when the Asian Tour honoured him with the "Rookie of the Year" award. Kapur may just be Indian sport's next big thing.

Randhawa was steady this year and though a win proved elusive, he still finished third on the Asian Tour Order of Merit. He and Atwal gave India visions of victory at the WGC Algarve World Cup in Portugal, ultimately finishing a respectable ninth -- a fair gauge of India's potential in the golf world.

After a tough baptism in his first year, Atwal proved that he can mix it with the big guys on the US PGA Tour. No titles but missing just one cut in 17 starts and finishing with the best putting average -- 1.710, better than Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson -- was testimony to his remarkable consistency on golf's most demanding stage. Even Tiger was impressed.

First Published: Jan 01, 2006 23:08 IST