Gurgaon:It promises to be a veritable battle for supremacy between Asian powerhouses India and Thailand when the Hero Honda Indian Open tees off here on October 8.
The rivalry that once featured Jeev Milkha Singh, Jyoti Randhawa, Arjun Atwal and Shiv Kapur against Thongchai Jaidee, Thaworn Wiratchant, Prayad Marksaeng and Srirot Thammannoon has carried on to the next generation and the $1.25 million event would be the new battleground between the nations.
The hottest star on the regional golfing scene, Gaganjeet Bhullar, leads the new generation of Indian star and his partners in the challenge include his Asian Games teammate Anirban Lahiri and Himmat Rai.
Battling it out against them are the Thai young guns, led by the 26-year-old Chapchai Nirat, who stunned the golfing world with his 32-under 256 total at the SAIL open earlier this year, the 20-year-old two-time World junior champion Kiradech Aphibarnrat and the 21-year-old Chinnarat Phadungsil.
Bhullar in only third full season as a pro has had a dream run on the Asian Tour. The Kapurthala lad first became the youngest ever Indian to play in a Major - British Open 2009 - and the very next week went on to become the youngest Indian ever to win on the Asian Tour by grabbing the Indonesia President Invitational.
He has also had three second place finishes and two other top-10s on the Asian Tour this year.
Right behind Bhullar are the likes of Lahiri and Himmat. Lahiri, last year got a last-minute chance to play the Singapore Open, where he played the first two rounds in the company of Phil Mickelson.
The 21-year-old Lahiri, in his first full season on Asian Tour, had a fourth place at Black Mountain Masters and ninth at Queen's Cup this year.
Himmat, also in his first season on Asian Tour, had a top-10 at Singha Thailand Open, where Jyoti Randhawa won the title and then he was recently 14th at the Queen's Cup.
Chapchai, meanwhile, will have happy memories of India, where the last time he won the SAIL Open by a whopping 11 shots ahead of Bhullar. Nirat shot 32-under 256 and enroute broke the 36, 54 and 72-hole records on the Asian Tour.
Despite Jeev, Randhawa and Shiv being uncertain about teeing up in the event, the Indian challenge will still be very strong with the presence of a new breed of talented golfers.
The Indian challenge will also include seasoned stars like Gaurav Ghei, a three-time winner on Asian Tour, always a contender, Rahil Gangjee, who won on Asian Tour in his Rookie year in 2004, and the stalwarts of the Indian domestic scene, Ashok Kumar, Mukesh Kumar and the rest.