Indian hopes pinned on Jeev at Indian Masters

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> The Indian Masters Golf, with a total prize money of Rs 24 crore, kicks off in New Delhi on Thursday.

Updated: February 08, 2008 12:33 IST
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New Delhi:

The amount of prize-money on offer in a sports event is often indicative of how big it is. The Indian Masters Golf, which tees off in New Delhi today is worth USD 2.5 million or Rs. 10 crore. Not bad, considering the purse for the last cricket world cup was Rs 20 crore.

That money has brought with it some of the best golfers in the world. But given the rich tradition of Indian golfers winning on home turf, don't be surprised if it is one of the Indian golfers - Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal, Jyoti Randhawa or Shiv Kapur - who ends up winning the first European tour event in the country.

With 24 crore of prize money on offer, some of golf's biggest names like Ernie Els and Darren Clarke in action and free entry for golf fans, the Indian Masters promises to be the season's greenest pasture for the game's enthusiasts.

Some 110 golfers, with 25 domestic spots, will vie for victory at the Delhi Golf Club.

Home advantage?

"You know where to hit, when to hit, when to play and when to be aggressive," says Jyoti Randhawa, three-time winner of the Indian Open.

Home advantage is, of course, a big factor in favour of Indians competing here. But when competing against the likes of Els and Clarke, the equation changes altogether.

"You know every blade of grass. It's our comfort zone which is important in any sport," says Shiv Kapur, another Indian on the Tour.

Gurav Ghei agrees, "The Indian players exactly know how to play this golf course."

The man and his bogey

World No. 4, and three-time major champion Els will be the main obstacle in the path of any Indian wanting to win the event. But perhaps the biggest bogey for Els and the others could be the unforgiving Delhi Golf Club.

But Els plays it cool. "It might not look great on TV but the course is playing very well," he says.
"You've got to be very accurate off the tees, and the greens are quite difficult to putt on. I played with Arjun today and he gave me a few tips."

Playing in the A-League

Of course, none of this would have been possible but for the form of the Indian golfers. Jeev's four wins in 2006 being one of the highlights.

He's now been specially invited to play in the Augusta masters for a second time. It is no surprise the big tournaments and the big players are coming to India.

"You have the world's biggest stars," says Amandeep Johl, a pro golfer.

"You have got Ernie Els and you have a Mark O'Meara, a former British Open champion and a Masters winner. So these kind of players are like having a Sachin Tendulkar and a Kapil Dev."

"And having these kind of people come into India and when youngsters see all these players, they see how far we need to go to raise our stature of the game," Johl says.

And if youngsters need inspiration by watching these players, there's great news for them. The entry to the Indian Masters is free.

Confident India

Kapur says Indian players play draws like this day in day out.

"Last week I got a chance to go head to head with Tiger (Woods) and it doesn't get bigger than that so you obviously don't get psyched out," he says.

"But obviously if your in contention with someone like Ernie Els, he is not going to give the tournament to you. You're going to have to win it from him.

Johl says he is putting his money on Indian players.

"They have the home advantage," Johl says. "Jyoti has played extremely well on this course, he's got it taped up.

"Arjun is in the nick of his game, he's just finished second in Panama. Jeev has had a great last couple of years. So any of these guys can win. And we may actually get a dark horse winning," he hopes.

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