Atwal seeks memorable Panasonic Open India debut; Chiragh, Jeev among other Indians in fray

Arjun Atwal Panasonic IndiaNew Delhi: India’s Arjun Atwal will be looking to turn the corner when he makes his debut appearance at the US$400,000 Panasonic Open India which starts on Thursday.

Placed 70th on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, Arjun Atwal needs a top-10 finish at the Delhi Golf Club to break into top-60 on the final money list, which is the cut-off mark for players to retain their full playing rights on the region’s premier Tour for 2017.

Atwal had earned a two-year exemption when he claimed his eighth Asian Tour victory at the Dubai Open in 2014. He hopes to take advantage of his course knowledge for a good showing, which will ease his Tour card worries ahead of the season finale next week.

“This course is very tight. The number one key here is to hit as many fairways as you can. If you play from the shot grass, you are going to do well. If you start missing fairways, it’s basically a done deal for you. It’s all about hitting fairways here,” said the 43-year-old Atwal.

“It’s good to be back at the Delhi Golf Club. I have played a lot on this course but it’s my first time playing in this tournament. I am excited to be here. I will just treat this week like any other week,” added Atwal, the first Indian golfer to win on the PGA Tour in 2010.

Singaporean veteran Mardan Mamat, a five-time winner on the Asian Tour but languishing in 63rd place, kept up his hopes of turning his season around as he returns to the scene of his breakthrough victory 12 years ago.

“It’s always nice to be back here at the Delhi Golf Club. This is where I claimed my first Asian Tour victory. The course is still as tight as before. You got to keep the ball on the fairways all the time. If you can keep the ball in play, you will get better chances of making birdies.

The 49-year-old Mamat admits that he has struggled with his game this season but he is hopeful that a new found confidence in his putter will lead him to glory again at the venerable Delhi Golf Club.

“The game has been a little off but I am gaining back some confidence, especially with my putting. The putter hasn’t been performing well as of late so I hope it will do some magic this week.

“I will play with no expectations this week. The main aim is to finish inside top-60 this season. But I will be a happier man if I can do better than that at the end of the season,” added Mamat.

Sitting just one rung above Mamat on the Merit rankings, Javi Colomo of Spain is also fighting to secure his playing rights on the Asian Tour. He has not lost his Tour card since coming through the Qualifying School in 2012.

“I have been struggling a bit with the long game this season but I am learning and I am working very hard to improve my game. I am still very positive about my season. This week is really important for me as I am on the bubble.

“This is a difficult course but I like the challenge here. I hope to finish inside top-10 this week,” said the 32-year-old Spaniard.

Defending champion Chiragh Kumar of India will headline the sixth edition of the Panasonic Open India alongside countryman Jeev Milkha Singh, Chikkarangappa S. and China’s Liang Wen-chong, who is making a welcome return to India since his memorable victory at the historic venue in 2008.