Atwal comes home as Indian Open tees off

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Arjun Atwal's homecoming after the historic PGA Tour title triumph would expectedly hog the limelight even as a rather unassuming defending champion C Muniyappa

Updated: December 01, 2010 11:51 IST
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Arjun Atwal's homecoming after the historic PGA Tour title triumph would expectedly hog the limelight even as a rather unassuming defending champion C Muniyappa and Jyoti Randhawa look to strike form at the Hero Honda Indian Open golf tournament teeing off here on Thursday.

With Jeev Milkha Singh pulling out due to a back injury, the 47th edition of the USD 1.25 million Asian Tour event has lost some sheen.

But with names such as Atwal, Randhawa, Muniyappa, Shiv Kapur and Indian-origin Swede Daniel Chopra in fray, it promises to be an exciting week nonetheless at the Delhi Golf Course, where the event returns after being held at the DLF Golf and Country Club last year.

Often referred to as the 'spiritual home' of the tournament, the DGC will host the 'National Open' for the 23rd time.

Atwal, who became the first Indian to win a PGA title by clinching the Wyndham championships trophy in August, is expected to have the largest group of followers when he tees off at the 10th hole along with Thai pro Prayad Marksaeng and Ireland's former Ryder Cup star Paul McGinley on Thursday.

The 37-year-old Orlando-based professional's last Asian Tour win came in the 2008 Malaysian Open, which was his seventh victory on the circuit. He won the Indian Open in 1999 and is looking for an encore after 11 years.

"It's still quite fresh in my mind. It was in Kolkata, at my home course. I hadn't played well coming into it but won the Indian Open. I got a lot of confidence from there on," Atwal said.

"The course is in great condition. I have never seen greens like these during practice. But if it gets windy, this course can get tricky. A winning score could be anywhere between seven-under to 18-under," added the star, whose practice round also drew quite an audience on Tuesday.

Before moving to the US, Atwal had also topped the Asian Tour Order of Merit in 2003.

While Atwal comes into the tournament in reasonably good form, having notched up three top-10s in 13 starts this year, Randhawa would be aiming to rediscover some of his lost touch.

The Delhi-pro has played mostly in Europe this year and has at best struggled but he somehow manages to come up with his best in home conditions.

"There is no better place to get your rhythm and form back than at your favourite hunting ground. I hope, I can recreate the magic this week at the Delhi Golf Club," he said ahead of the event.

Also watched would be Muniyappa's march. After securing a dream victory a year ago when he defeated Korea's Lee Sung in a play-off, Muniyappa has not been able to reproduce the winning form.

The 33-year-old says he made some unnecessary changes to his game after last year's win but has now returned to his old ways to present a solid title defence.

McGinley and Daniel Chopra give the foreign flavour to the elite field along with Korean American Anthony Kang, Australia's Scott Hend and Marcus Both, all winners on the Asian Tour.

The 43-year-old McGinley is most famous for holing the winning putt for the European team in the 2002 Ryder Cup. He was also a part of the winning team in 2004 and 2006.

Also in fray is Rashid Khan, the prodigious amateur and winner of the silver medal in the Asian Games' team competition, will turn professional this week after managing to get a sponsor's exemption.

The 19-year-old Delhi golfer, who has been India's leading and most high-profile amateur, had put off turning professional just to be able to play in the Asian Games.

Rashid is a two-time Faldo Series Asia champion and has also won titles on the amateur circuit in countries such as Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore besides representing India at the prestigious Eisenhower Cup.

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