Chiragh kumar, Himmat Singh leading title contenders at McLeod Russel Tour Championship 2015

Chiragh Kumar McLeod Russel Tour Championship 2015Kolkata: Delhi-based professionals Chiragh Kumar and Himmat Singh Rai start the McLeod Russel Tour Championship as serious title contenders thanks to their recent exploits at the international stage.

While Chiragh is riding high on his maiden Asian Tour success, achieved at his home course, the Delhi Golf Club, last month, Himmat is in hot form at the moment, having recently posted two top-3 finishes in Asia. The two golfers ended the Asian Tour season in 14th and 31st place in the money list respectively.

The 32-year-old Chiragh, the 2011 Rolex Ranking champion, hadn’t had good results on the Asian Tour till the Macao Open in October where he finished a creditable joint second. He then enjoyed a blockbuster week in Delhi to lift the Panasonic Open India trophy which was his first international triumph.

“It was a fantastic week in Delhi as I finally broke the victory barrier in Asia after coming close on a few occasions before. I’ve played a lot in the last three months so I’m a bit drained. However, playing the McLeod Russel is always special and gets the best out of me. So I’m looking to end the year with another top performance this week,” said Chiragh, a four-time winner on the PGTI.

He added, “The RCGC course is playing a lot longer than it did when I last played here. There are a few new tees, so those holes play differently now. It will not be a very low scoring week as the rough is up and hitting the fairways is important. One needs to create a lot of chances here since RCGC is not a place where you can make too many birdies or get lot of chances.”

The 28-year-old Himmat, like Chiragh was struggling to keep his card in Asia, for the major part of the season. However, the turnaround for Rai came with his joint runner-up finish at the Ho Tram Open in Vietnam where he lost to Spanish star Sergio Garcia in a playoff. The pro from the DLF Golf & Country Club, Gurgaon, followed that up with an equally impressive tied third finish at the season-ending Philippine Open thanks to a sensational nine-under-63 in the final round.

Himmat said, “I kept grinding despite not being anywhere close to my best in the first part of the season. However, my game started coming together during the Asian Development Tour event in Eagleton (near Bengaluru) as I was once again striking it well and shooting low scores. Then out of nowhere I missed four cuts back to back on the Asian Tour. But the outstanding week in Vietnam changed everything even though I lost in a close playoff. The performance in Philippines further added to my confidence. I really got it going on the last day with some long putts.

“I love playing golf in Kolkata as I won my first professional title here at Tollygunge Club in 2009. I also won two amateur titles at the RCGC back in 2005 and 2006.

“The RCGC track requires percentage golf. This week it’s going to be about knowing what clubs to hit off the tee and knowing where to place the ball on the greens,” said Rai, a winner on the Asian Tour.

The other leading contenders this week include the top-3 in the Rolex Ranking - veteran Mukesh Kumar of Mhow and youngsters Chikkarangappa of Bengaluru and Chandigarh’s Abhijit Singh Chadha. The three will be gunning for glory to bag the Rolex Player of the Year title.

The winner’s prize of Rs. 22,50,000 will ensure that leader Mukesh is kept on his toes despite his season’s earnings of Rs. 34,91,710, as Chikka (Rs. 26,37,440) and Chadha will still have a shot (Rs. 25,41,203) at number one.

Rookie Udayan Mane of Bengaluru, fourth in the merit list with earnings in excess of Rs. 20 lakh, is the outright favourite to bag the Emerging Player of the Year title. Mane, a winner of two titles this year, will also be a name to reckon with this week.

Seasoned Indian professionals and multiple winners on the Asian Tour Jyoti Randhawa, Gaganjeet Bhullar and Rashid Khan are some of the biggest names competing this week and cannot be taken lightly when playing in India.

The top foreign names in the field consist of Bangladeshi Md Siddikur Rahman and Sri Lankan Mithun Perera. While Siddikur is a two-time winner on the Asian Tour, Perera is a multiple winner on the PGTI and an Asian Tour regular.