Harpal Singh Bedi
Gurugram: Will Khalin Joshi be able to break the jinx?
This is the big question being asked as no player has won the Panasonic Open India more than once and Khalin Joshi is the defending champion
Joshi, who had a series of Top-10s before grabbing his first win at the Panasonic Open India, will be hoping to buck the trend and become the first repeat winner. A bunch of talented Indians from Shiv Kapur to Khalin Joshi, Ajeetesh Sandhu, Rashid Khan, Viraj Madappa, S Chikkrangappa, Aadil Bedi among others could lift that lovely trophy besides winning the Blue Jacket, that has become the tradition for winners of Panasonic Open India. Joshi will try to extend his lease on the title among the select band to try and do it for the first time, when the event tees off at a new venue. The US$400,000 full field Asian Tour event will be played from November 14-17 at the Classic Golf and Country Club for the first time. The previous editions were held at the Delhi Golf Club.
The 2019 edition will see five of the eight previous winners return to the event with Joshi leading the way and Shiv Kapur, Mukesh Kumar, Chiragh Kumar and Digvijay Singh giving Joshi company in the winners’ gallery. Players from as many as 17 countries have entered for the event, which has become well-known for producing Indian winners. Seven of the eight winners going back to 2011 have been Indian, but no one has been able to repeat the success.
The international challenge will be led by Asian Tour winners like Rory Hie of Indonesia, who won the Classic Golf & Country Club Championship at the same course in September, Thais Suradit Yongcharoenchai, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit, Prom Meesawat and Danthai Boonma, Argentine Miguel Carballo, Filipino Miguel Tabuena, Australian Jason Norris among others.
Another highlight of the event will be the presence of India’s ‘Big Three’ Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal and Jyoti Randhawa, all of them now senior professionals. Between them they have won titles on every major Tour of the world, ranging from US PGA to European, Asian and Japan Tours. They have been the standard torchbearers of Indian golf for more than two decades and they, more than anyone else, would be pleased to see the revolution in Indian professional golf. It was they, after all, who set the wheels in motion.
The generation next to them now being led by Shiv Kapur, Anirban Lahiri, Gaganjeet Bhullar and Shubhankar Sharma, ply their trade on Asian, European and PGA Tours. And they in turn have inspired the current crop including Ajeetesh Sandhu, Khalin Joshi, Rashid Khan and many others.
An excited Joshi says, “It’s going to be exciting defending my first Asian Tour title. I like the golf course and my game is getting more positive and I’m confident. The win is still very fresh on my mind. I putted and drove the ball really well that week. There are positive signs now as I’m getting those similar feelings like last year. I just got to just block out unnecessary thoughts like I’m the defending champion and just play my own game.”
Joshi produced a dramatic finish when he fired four birdies in his closing five holes to sign for a four-under-par 68 and clinched his maiden Asian Tour title by one shot over Bangladeshi Siddikur Rahman, who finished runner-up for the third time. “The Classic Golf and Country Club is a lovely course and it’s not very long. But it demands good driving and good putting as well. If you can put the ball on the fairway and putt well, you’re going to be up there on the leaderboard for sure,” said Joshi.
Joshi has not been as steady as he was a year ago, with his best finish this season being tied-19th result in Chinese Taipei last month. “I have not enjoyed a great season so far, but I hope to play well every week and put myself in a good position so that I can put myself in a winning situation again,” said Joshi.
“The win last year at the Panasonic Open obviously helped me. I have to every event this year but haven’t really capitalised on all the opportunities, but looking forward to starting it from this week. The game is feeling good so looking forward to having a good week and finishing the year on a high.
“I have played well on this golf course throughout my career – be it junior, amateur or professional, so I have good memories of this course. I really like the track so I’m looking forward to gaining some confidence. Overall this course really suits my game.” the defending champion said
With the 2019 season nearing its end, Indian golfers collectively need to ensure that their amazing streak of having won at least one international professional title is maintained. After six wins, including one on the Asian Development Tour, Indians have not won any in 2019.
Indians have also been formidable on home turf – their seven wins in eight stagings of the Panasonic being a solid proof of that – but the two events held earlier this year in India have not produced an Indian winner. Rashid Khan at T-10 with S Chikkarangappa at the Hero Indian Open, and Rashid again at second, was the best Indian in both the events held in India this year. With a strong Indian presence in the full field event, local fans will be hoping will be hoping for another home win and that could well come from one of the new faces waiting for their breakthrough on the Asian Tour.Another title contender Gaganjeet Bhullar also exuded confidence of performing well ” I’ve never won so far in India and last year was really good when I got my first European Tour win in Fiji. he said adding “This year I started off really well but the second half on the European Tour was not as good as I was expecting. But right now I’m feeling good, the body is feeling good and I’m hitting the ball well.
“I’m playing on this golf course after a gap of ten years. Last time I played here, I shot 22-under and I lost the tournament by ten shots.It is a great golf course and I’m feeling confident to play well this week.
Shiv Kapur,the other hopeful admitted that he had a lacklustre season thus far. “Last week, was at a golf course where I’ve had success in the past. Two years ago Gaganjeet and I tied for second place there and obviously I had my first Asian Tour win there. So anytime you go to a golf course where you’ve had some success, it gives you a lot of confidence. And hopefully, I can carry that confidence that I gained last week into this week. It was obviously disappointing not to win, but standing on the 14th tee in the final round, I was five or six shots back. So, didn’t really think I had a shot. So to even get into the playoff was a bonus.
Indonesian Rory Hie opined “ I feel I have been learning a lot since my win here. I have got into events that I normally wouldn’t have gone into without the win and getting to play with good golfers and good courses. The course is definitely playing different than six weeks ago. You can now actually see the ball from fifty yards out and it seems to be a really good condition.
The Panasonic Open India is the second leg in the third edition of the Asian Tour’s 2019-20 Panasonic Swing, which is a ranking based on an aggregate points race that spans five events with the final top-three players chasing a share of a lucrative bonus pool.
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