Golfers Chawrasia, Bhullar top contenders at McLeod Russel Tour

Randhawa SSPChawrasia JeevMilkhaSingh McLeodRusselKolkata: S.S.P. Chawrasia and Gaganjeet Bhullar, winners of two titles each in Asia this year, will be the men to beat in the start-studded field of 64 golfers at the Rs 1.5 crore McLeod Russel Tour Championship 2016 which begins at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC) on Thursday.

The duo is riding high on confidence ahead of the year-ending tournament of the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) having posted international wins just about a month back.

While Chawrasia achieved a major landmark by winning his first title outside India at the Resorts World Manila Masters in mid-November, Bhullar made it back to back titles for India the following week when he lifted the Indonesia Open trophy for the second time.

Local lad Chawrasia, said in a release, "I have some very positive vibes coming into the McLeod Russel Tour Championship as I won the first edition of the event back in 2012. It is an event that I eagerly await all year. It's also great to be back at RCGC as this is my home course and I began my golfing journey here.

"This has been one of my best years as a professional so far as I not only realized my childhood dream of winning the Indian Open, but also finally won my first event outside India after a long wait. So I'm eager to end the year on a high with another win here at RCGC.

"The course conditions are world-class. One has to watch out for the rough which is much thicker than before. I would say that the tough field this week is good for the young Indian golfers as it prepares them for the bigger stage. They will learn a lot when they rub shoulders with the likes of Jeev, Arjun, Jyoti and Shiv."

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Bhullar, who finished tied second at the 2014 edition of the event, said: "This is one of my favourite golf courses in India. The layout, conditions and the set up this week at RCGC is like an international event. It will be my fourth appearance at this tournament and I'm raring to go as all the big names are here."

Arjun Atwal, another local favourite, who returns to the McLeod Russel Tour Championship and the RCGC after 2014, is looking for a memorable homecoming.

"I love being back home in Kolkata among family and friends. I'm also returning to the golf course where I learnt to play the game. It brings back such good memories. I won the Indian Open here at the RCGC in 1999," he said.

Jyoti Randhawa also has good memories from last year's McLeod Russel Tour Championship where he finished tied second.

"I've had a few good weeks in the run-up to this event. I put in a solid performance at the Asian Tour event in Delhi earlier this month where I claimed joint second place. I'm playing better with each week and looking to improve upon my short-game.

The winner takes home a cheque worth Rs 22,50,000. The foreign challenge is being led by the Thai duo of Pariya Junhasavasdikul, a two-time winner on the Asian Tour, and 18-year-old sensation Suradit Yoncharoenchai.