Daly, Hamilton take first look at DLF before Avantha Masters

Gurgaon: Major winner John Daly, 2004 British Open champion Todd Hamilton, Mardan Mamat, winner of the Philippine Open last week and veteran Zaw Moe were among the international stars who had their first taste of a full practice round on the eve of the third Euro 1.8 million Avantha Masters at the DLF Golf and Country Club here on Tuesday.

Sporting his multi-coloured trousers John Daly went about his business with his caddie. He had a good look at the course, where he could drive the ball really long.

With many of the visiting players arriving in India from either Dubai, where the European Tour finished with the Desert Classic, and the Philippines, where the Asian tour played out the Philippine Open on Sunday, it was the first full day for them in India.

It was a foggy day in the morning with little sun but the players had a good look at the course, which was playing well. The fairways came in for some praise, though the players were still trying to understand the breaks and the speed of the greens.

Meanwhile Hamilton, who last came here for the BILT Skins in 2004, said. “This is my seventh visit to India. I played the Indian Open five times, three times in Calcutta and twice in Delhi.”

Outside the Indians, and the Major winners, Daly and Hamilton, will be as former world number one amateur Peter Uihlein, David Horsey, a two-time winner on European Tour, 2010 Avantha winner Andrew Dodt, Richard Sterne, a five-time winner on European Tour, and Dutchman Joost Luiten, who won his first title at the Iskandar Johor Open.

Mamat was happy with his form and looked forward to continuing the good form. “It is always nice to go into an event with a win in the previous week,” said Mamat.

The Avantha Masters, India’s one and only European Tour event, will witness one of the strongest fields competing for top honours at the Arnold Palmer designed DLF Golf & Country Club here this week.

The Pro-am will set the ball rolling on Wednesday, March 15 with the main event scheduled to be played from Thursday through Sunday.

Also in the fray is Jeev Milkha Singh.  The 40-year old Jeev was the first Indian to qualify for The European Tour and has won three titles, the last of which was in 2008. He has also won the Asian Tour Order of Merit twice, in 2006 and 2008.

Another name to watch out for is Rahil Gangjee, who in 2010 was among the seven players tied for the lead dafter three rounds at the 2010 Avantha Masters. Gangjee who shifted base to the United States last year to compete in the Nationwide Tour, has given a decent account of himself on what is a very competitive platform and the stepping stone to the biggest playing field in the world, the PGA Tour. This year he was second at Asian Tour Q-School and also the Gujarat Kensville Challenge, an event on the European Challenge Tour last month.

Shiv Kapur is one thirsting for his first Asian Tour title since 2005, when he won the Volvo Masters of Asia in Thailand.  Shiv finished 24th on the Asian Tour OOM so he can certainly be tagged a dark-horse. 

Young turks, Anirban Lahiri, Gaganjeet Bhullar, Himmat Rai and Chiragh Kumar are three other golfers to keep a close watch on.  Lahiri and Himmat won their maiden pro titles on Asian Tour in 2011 while Chiragh topped the PGTI OOM list in 2011 and also secured his Asian Tour card.