Atwal seeks home comfort at Panasonic Open

File Photo : Arjun Atwal

New Delhi, Nov 1 : Indias Arjun Atwal is looking forward to playing again on familiar winning ground when he begins his chase for individual glory at the Panasonic Open India which begins at the Delhi Golf Club (DGC) here on Thursday.

Atwal will lead Team Asia at a biennial match-play event in Malaysia in early 2018 and while he is excited about taking on the non-playing captaincy role, he is also looking forward to another winning performance at the $400,000 event.

The Panasonic Open India will be Atwal's second competitive start on home soil this season and with the year approaching to a close, he is aiming to end it on a high note.

"It's nice to be playing at home again for the second time this year, especially to a place like Delhi Golf Club. I've been playing here since my junior days and I had a bit of success here. The year has been patchy for me. I would have liked to have a consistent run going and I think I'm pretty close to getting it going," Atwal said. 

"I'm hoping for a good showing here while keeping an eye on who are the hotter players on Tour right now so that I can make my captain's picks. Hitting the fairways is all that matters here," he added.

Atwal is the only Indian to date to have tasted success on the PGA Tour. He has eight wins on the Asian Tour and of them, three were co-sanctioned with the European Tour. 

He also has one win each on Nationwide and PGA Tours. Atwal's last win came in Dubai in 2014 on Asian Tour, and he is itching to get another win.

Talking about his captaincy job, he said, "I am looking forward to that responsibility. It should be fun and yet challenging. Asia now has solid talent and I would love to be with them. I have always had great fun in Malaysia. I won twice there in 2003 and 2008, so I have great memories of Malaysia and it should be interesting to go back in a new role."

Of his own form, he said: "I have played very little this year. But I will be playing a lot in the next two months. I will also get a start on PGA Tour at RSM Classic. I will play Manila next week and then go to US for RSM Classic and then back to Hong Kong and Mauritius. That will also help me play my minimum."

Featuring one of the strongest Indian contingents ever, the Panasonic Open India field includes every top Indian pro, barring the US-based Anirban Lahiri, and Jeev Milkha Singh, who pulled out at the last minute because of an injury sustained in a freak incident. He hurt his left elbow while trying to open a coconut water bottle. 

The field includes all four Indians, who have tasted success on the Asian Tour this season. Leading the way is S.S.P. Chawrasia, who successfully defended his Hero Indian Open crown -- his sixth Asian Tour title -- earlier this year.

Read Also : "Seventh edition of Panasonic Open golf from November 2"

Having won on home soil earlier this year, Chawrasia is hoping for another home victory that will strengthen his bid for the Asian Tour Order of Merit where he is currently in fourth place.

"I'm feeling really at home at the Delhi Golf Club. Obviously I'm very comfortable here and I'm looking forward to getting a good result this week. I've won a few times over here and I have many good memories of the Delhi Golf Club. I try to win every tournament that I played in and this week is no different," Chawrasia said. 

"I know the course very well here and I'll try my best. I've been playing with many of the top players in the last few weeks and I learnt a lot from them especially how to stay calm under pressure and how to score. I hope to put that into practice this week," he added.

Chawrasia is followed by Shiv Kapur, who won the Yeangder Heritage, Ajeetesh Sandhu, winner at the Yeangder TPC and Gaganjeet Bhullar at Macao Open.

Jyoti Randhawa, who now divides his time between golf and ‘adventure sports', is the most successful player at the DGC, having won four Asian Tour titles here, besides another couple of Indian tour titles.

Gaganjeet Bhullar and Shiv Kapur are both back to their winning ways, while Ajeetesh Sandhu has just broken through. 

Rashid Khan, twice winner on Asian Tour in the past, has not won since 2014 but looks ready to do so on his home turf, just as he did for his maiden win in 2014.

Meanwhile the young brigade with likes of Shubhankar Sharma, Khalin Joshi, S. Chikkarangappa and Udayan Mane will also fancy their chances.

The international challenge will include the most successful of all Asian Tour stars in Thaworn Wiratchant, who has 18 titles on the Tour. However, he has not won since his Kings Cup and Queen's Cup double in 2014.

Malaysia's Nicholas Fung believes a refreshing holiday break in Vietnam has revitalize him and is ready to chase for another Asian Tour win having earned his breakthrough in Thailand in June.

"I haven't been practising for eight days and today's my first day back on the golf course. It has been good so far. I have not made any bogeys on this pro-am day. Hopefully it'll continue throughout the week," he said.

"I've a two years' winner's exemption on the Asian Tour now and it helps me mentally as I can plan my schedule better now and continue to gain more experience by playing in bigger events."