Queensland’s Scott Hend hopes to continue his affinity with Asia when he challenges for back-to-back victories at the historic Hero Indian Open, which starts today.
The big-hitting Hend, who claimed his 10th Asian Tour title in Malaysia last week, is looking to taste success in India for the first time in his career when he takes on the challenging Gary Player-designed course at the DLF Golf and Country Club.
Hailed as the most successful international player on the Asian Tour, Hend had claimed all his 10 victories in Asia, including three titles in Thailand, two in Macau and one each in Indonesia, Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei and Singapore.
“It took a fair while for it to sink in that I had actually won, and I didn’t really enjoy it until yesterday morning when I was sitting at the airport in Bangkok on my way here,” Hend said of his Maybank Championship triumph. “It was a pretty busy Sunday afternoon and Monday I had a really bad headache from heatstroke, didn’t even get a chance to celebrate, so it’s been a bit of a whirlwind trip here and now it’s time to enjoy it.
“I find it a daunting golf course,” Hend said of the Indian Open venue. “I wouldn’t say tricky or difficult, it’s just that if you hit a bad shot here you are going to be penalised. If I don’t hit the ball how I want to, I am just going to make a double or triple-bogey somewhere and it is a course where you can’t overpower it. You still have to be in control of your golf ball and plot your way around the course.
“I would like to have a sound tournament and play solid on this golf course. It is a tournament I haven’t figured out yet how to play. I’ve watched one of the shortest players on Tour win around here playing with S.S.P. (Chawrasia) when he took it apart, and then I saw Matt Wallace play great here last year. So, S.S.P, who just plots his way around the golf course and just breaks it apart, then you have Matt Wallace who was just pounding the golf ball everywhere, so somewhere in the middle there has got to be a key to playing the course well.
“I am starting to get to where I want to be, I am not there yet but it is a slow progression. I will play the golf course in a very defensive frame of mind. There are some holes out here that you can take advantage of and some you really have to be careful with, and par is a good score.
“To win here in India with a lot of Indian friends, it would be special because in terms of national opens this is such a prestigious tournament, it has been going for such a long time and to get your name on that trophy would be an honour and a privilege.”
Reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit champion Shubhankar Sharma will have another shot at fulfilling his childhood ambitions as he takes aim at adding his name to the illustrious list of Indian winners at the US$1.75 million event.
The 22-year-old Sharma, the highest-ranked Indian on the Official World Golf Ranking, set a new course record after firing an eight-under par 64 during the second round of the Hero Indian Open last year. The talented Indian held a share of the lead heading into the final round last year but would eventually close with a disappointing 75 to settle for a tied-seventh place finish.
Armed with a more mature mindset and a better game plan this time around, Sharma hopes to redeem himself by putting up another title charge in his National Open.
Anirban Lahiri, the 2015 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion, is thrilled to be back home for the first time this year after honing his skills on the PGA Tour, where he has made five cuts in his last seven starts so far this season.
Lahiri, who won the Indian Open in 2015, endured a long haul 19-hour flight from Florida before arriving in New Delhi this morning. He will have to fight off jet-lag to turn his season around at the event which he has enjoyed several impressive results in the past.
A stellar 144-men field from 28 countries will be vying for top honours at the Hero Indian Open, which celebrates its 55th edition this week.