Crans Montana: In-form SSP Chawrasia of India will continue his chase for a first title on European soil at the Omega European Masters, which gets underway on Thursday.
The 39-year-old Chawrasia, who was recently awarded the prestigious Arjuna award back home, has won six times on the Asian Tour and out of which, four were events co-sanctioned with the European Tour in India.
Chawrasia, however, has never win on European soil in his 20-year career. He will take aim at the title when he steps up to the tee for the €2.7 million (approximately US$3.25 million) event held at the Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club.
Placed second on the Order of Merit, Chawrasia will also attempt to chase down leader David Lipsky of the United States on the money list with a strong showing in the Swiss showpiece, which remains as the only tournament on European soil to be co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.
Reigning Order of Merit champion Scott Hend of Australia will be seeking redemption when he tees off for his eighth appearance at the Omega European Masters this week.
The 44-year-old Hend battled into a play-off with Alex Noren last year but settled for a runner-up finish after the Swede defeated him with a birdie against a par on the first play-off hole.
Despite playing the course for the first time in his career, Chinese Taipei’s Lu Wei-chih hopes to turn the corner by taking advantage of his feel-good vibes to cap a good showing on the mountains. He has only made two cuts in eight starts on the Asian Tour so far this season.
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Chawrasia came close to winning his first title on European soil at the Made in Denmark tournament two weeks ago. He stayed bogey-free for the first two rounds to trail by one at the halfway stage before eventually finishing in tied-19th place for his best result yet in Europe.
Chawrasia has only made the cut twice in his last eight appearances at the Omega European Masters. His best result was a tied-24th place finish in 2015.
Chawrasia capped a successful title defence for his sixth Asian Tour victory and fourth European Tour win at the Hero Indian Open earlier in March.
Hend is a nine-time winner on the Asian Tour. Out of his nine victories, two were achieved at events co-sanctioned with the European Tour.
Hend became the first Australian to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit in 2016.
Hend’s runner-up finish at the Omega European Masters in 2016 earned him his career’s biggest prize purse of € 300,000 (approximately US$358,801) to date.
Lu is a four-time winner on the Asian Tour. He claimed a sensational win at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters last year as it was his first victory since recovering from a brain surgery which he underwent to remove a non-malignant tumour in 2012.
During his road to recovery, Lu was advised by doctors not to take long haul flights as it might cause pressure in his brain. That was why he could not play the Omega European Masters even though he had qualified before. Lu decided to play the Swiss showpiece this week as he has recovered from it since.
S.S.P. Chawrasia (Ind)
It’s a very beautiful place here. I love coming here every year. I am enjoying the beautiful views here and it feels great to be playing here. The course is playing great. I played the pro-am tournament on Monday.
The conditions are excellent and it’s just getting better and better every year. This year, we have as new green on hole 11 which I think it’s slightly easier than the old green. The game is feeling good. I played well in Denmark a couple of weeks back. Hopefully it will be a good week!
You need to hit it straight and putt well to score on this course. Everybody is hitting the ball good so it’s important to putt well as the greens are tricky. You actually have the see where the mountains are before you putt. It’s interesting.
Winning the Arjuna Award back home is a great recognition of what I have achieved in my career. It has been my dream since I was a junior. I am really happy to win the award. Everyone is very happy for me back home. It was nice. I enjoyed my time back home before coming here.
I am just playing my own game. I just want to focus on my own game and not think so much about the Order of Merit crown. I know I am playing well so I will just stick to my routine. If I play good enough, it will come to me.
Scott Hend (Aus)
It’s a tricky golf course but it’s always nice to come and play here. The surrounding areas are so good and it’s a nice week to come here and enjoy yourself.
It will be nice to get into a playoff again this year and win it instead of lose it but Alex (Noren) did play good enough to win the title last year. It was a good finish for me nevertheless. It was disappointing not to win because it would be really nice to have your name imprinted on the sidewalks up here.
I will just do my best again this year and see what happens. It’s a very difficult golf course. It changes so much from the morning to the afternoon with the weather going from cold to hot.
Judging how far the ball goes is a big part of this golf course. The ball seems to go further in the afternoon. You got to be really careful on which club to use.
It’s a funny type of grass on these greens because it gets a bit bumpy in the later part of the day. There’s a lot of little things you need to look at to play well on this golf course.
Lu Wei-chih (Tpe)
It’s my first time here in Switzerland. A bit of hiccup upon arriving because my luggage didn’t arrive with me. My golf bag came with me though. My wife is here with me this week and we are very excited to be here. The views are great and you feel really relaxed to be here.
I played the pro-am tournament on Monday. It’s a really beautiful golf course. As it’s my first time here, there are a lot of things for me to learn. The weather here is very different from back home in Chinese Taipei too. The temperature change is about 20 degrees.
My body feels a little stiff from the cold but I’m trying my best to adjust to it. Before coming here, everyone’s been telling me that you tend to hit the ball further here. But after playing the pro-am tournament on Monday, I feel that the difference wasn’t much.
Accuracy off the tee will be key this week. The aim is to get as high on the leaderboard as possible but we will see how it goes.