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Shubhankar, Manu hope to excel at Hero Indian Open Golf

Both exuded confidence that they, along with other compatriots, will put up a good show against some of the World’s top golfers.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

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Star golfers, Shubhankar Sharma and Manu Gandas, will lead the strong home challenge at the US$ 2 million Hero Indian Open (HIO) which tees off at the DLF Golf and Country Club layout by Gary Player here on Thursday.

There are 32 Indians in the field of 120 and that includes three-time HIO winner, Jyoti Randhawa, and the two-time HIO winner, SSP Chawrasia.

Talking to media persons this afternoon, Sharma and Gandas exuded confidence that they, along with other compatriots, will put up a good show against some of the World’s top golfers.

The two 26-year-olds, both of whom have DP World Tour cards, grew up playing golf on the junior circuit since the age of 10, but have not got to play together much since turning pro.

 “I’m very happy that the event is back. It’s like a fifth major, I’ve said that countless times this week. It’s very, very special and I’m very happy it’s back, especially at DLF.” Sharma said, adding “This course is very special to me. This is where I played quite a lot from 2012 to 2016, around the time that I joined the Tour and it’s always great coming back. The course is in great nick and it’s slightly different to what it was three years ago. The bushes have grown, the trees have grown, so it’s definitely tighter. I’m very happy it’s back.”

Sharma turned pro ten years ago at the age of 16 and moved to international tours in Asia, then the DP World Tour (where he has won twice) and has even played a bit on the PGA Tour. “It means a lot to have this event. I’ve been playing on the DP World Tour for four years now but quite a few (Indian) players are getting their first experience of proper international golf. It’s great for them, they’re all very excited, a lot of good players have emerged in the last few years, and this is their first experience of international golf.”

“I’m very happy that the event is back. It’s like a fifth major, I’ve said that countless times this week. It’s very, very special and I’m very happy it’s back, especially at DLF. This course is very special to me. This is where I played quite a lot from 2012 to 2016, around the time that I joined the Tour and it’s always great coming back. The course is in great nick and it’s slightly different to what it was three years ago. The bushes have grown, the trees have grown, so it’s definitely tighter. I’m very happy it’s back.” he opined

 “It means a lot to have this event. I’ve been playing on the DP World Tour for four years now but quite a few (Indian) players are getting their first experience of proper international golf. It’s a great for them, they’re all very excited, a lot of good players have emerged in the last few years, and this is their first experience of international golf,” said Sharma

Gandas turned pro in 2015, but did not find much success till last year. He won six times during a brilliant 2022 season on the TATA Steel PGTI Tour of India to top their Order or Merit. That success came right in time as the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour announced a strategic tie-up with the PGTI and he was the first beneficiary of that.

Gandas is aiming to showcase the improvement he has made in his game since his last DP World Tour appearance on home soil. After missing the cut in his first two starts of the 2023 Tour season, He impressed on his way to finishing in a share of 28th place at last week’s Thailand Classic.

 “I have been feeling good,” he said. “My game has been progressing bit by bit and I am looking forward to the week. I have been working on the shortcomings that I have had for a while and that has borne fruit for me.

“I feel at the end of the day that the increased attention doesn’t change anything because what I can control is my own game. If I keep doing that, I will be happy.”

“This is basically my second home,” he added. “I have grown up here and to have a National Open over here is a proud thing for us. The conditions are impeccable right now. The fairways are pristine, and the greens are rolling quite good so overall it is in great shape. ” he said

“For the DP World Tour to have this event back on their schedule will definitely help the sport grow in India and that is a good thing,” he added.

Meanwhile Stephen Gallacher gets the opportunity to defend his HIO title more than 1400 days after he won it. The 48-year-old’s victory was his first DP World Tour triumph since he won back-to-back titles in Dubai in 2013 and 2014.

His countryman Robert MacIntyre will make his HIO debut as he looks to earn crucial Ryder Cup Rankings points ahead of this year’s biennial contest at Marco Simone in September, as will fellow Ryder Cup hopefuls Nicolai Højgaard and Guido Migliozzi, who both represented the triumphant Continental Europe team in last month’s Hero Cup.

Gallacher said, “I feel great. It’s 1,400-odd days since I was last here so there’s been a lot of hardship that’s happened since then but it’s great to be here and get the event played.

“There are plenty of great memories. It’s a course that’s not really changed very much, it’s in amazing condition, same as the last time we were here and I’ve got some great memories coming down the stretch. Hopefully I can replicate them this week.

“It’s just one of those courses you’ve got to be patient at; it’s not one you can force a score on. Par is a good score. There’s some tough, tough holes and few you can attack but it’s just a really tough track and one of the best we play all year to be honest.”

Thomas Bjorn, who was the captain of the 2018 Ryder Cup winning European team, was all praise for the event while Thorbjørn Olesen, who won his seventh DP World Tour title at last week’s Thailand Classic, will look to continue his good form upon his return to India as part of a strong Danish contingent.

Fellow Dane, Nicolai Hojgaard,  said, “I’m feeling good. Looking forward to playing here in India. It’s a different week, different type of course and overall, just excited to get going again.

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