Miguel Tabuena set to thrive in brutal Delhi arena
Ajeetesh Sandhu can upstage fellow Indians
Sky Sports Golf, 5.30am Thursday
Shubhankar Sharma dazzled a fresh audience in the WGC-Mexico Championship last week, leading for most of the way before buckling on Sunday, and the 21-year-old has returned to India to tackle his home course.
Sharma, who is affiliated to the DLF Country Club, is a great talent and a worthy favourite, but the mental rigours of Mexico, where he battled with the best in the business on his WGC debut, and the extra media spotlight which has come as a result, may take a toll.
Mexico City to Delhi is a 20-hour flight, so Sharma is entitled to feel sluggish at the start of the Indian Open, despite his home comforts. Second-favourite Anirban Lahiri has been struggling for top form and is still adjusting to new equipment having signed for Callaway this year. He had been a Srixon player for his entire professional career before the switch.
Palmer's top tip
Miguel Tabuena 55-1
Victory in the Philippine Open on Sunday gave Miguel Tabuena a timely confidence boost going into the Indian Open and this rising star can make a serious impression at the DLF Club this week.
Tabuena needed an extra hole to claim his national title for a second time, but that was only because a controversial ruling after round three saw him suffer a two-shot penalty. His playing partner said Tabuena hit a leaf on his backswing when playing out of a bunker at the 11th, and his three was changed to a five on the scorecard.
Despite that blow, Tabuena dug deep to force a playoff against Prom Meesawat, immediately defeating the Thai with a par at the difficult 18th. The way the 23-year-old Filipino ace handled adversity, staying cool amid the crazy penalty, suggests the pride of Manila has the temperament to go far.
Tabuena has form figures of 16-7-21-3-MC-5-8-14-MC-2-1 from his last 11 tournaments, six of them on the Asian Tour, three on the European Tour and the two recent PGT events in his homeland. The two missed cuts were each by a single shot. This sweet swinger looks well capable of winning a low-grade European Tour gathering in Asia.
Fifth place in the Mauritius Open in December, where he finished only four shots behind winner Dylan Frittelli, is particularly impressive form. Tabuena got four rounds of competitive course experience under his belt last year, sharing 51st spot, so he can hit the ground running. He excelled on a brutal layout last week – one over par was enough to top the 72-hole leaderboard – and he looks a dangerman on another challenging design this week.
Ajeetesh Sandhu 125-1
Sharma, victorious in two European Tour events this season before his bold WGC effort, has been an inspiration for Indian golfers in the last few months. The fast-improving Ajeetesh Sandhu can feed off the form of his friend by contending for Indian Open glory.
Sharma was one of four compatriots who sprayed Sandhu with beer on the 18th green after he won the Yeangder Players Championship in October. Sharma, who finished 21st that week, has gone on to bigger things, but the Asian Tour breakthrough provided a springboard for Sandhu to also establish himself as one of the finest players in India.
Sandhu is 29, so a late bloomer, but he has found top gear in the last 12 months, rocketing from 1,893rd in the world rankings to 202nd. He won on the Indian Tour, then the Asian Tour and Japanese Challenge Tour in the space of eight months, before two Asian Tour runner-up finishes and eighth place in a strong Indonesian Masters just before Christmas.
Like Tabuena, Sandhu has competed before on the quirky terrain of the fairly new Signature Course, finishing 55th in the Indian Open last year when ranked 1,874th in the world. This time, the increasingly assured Chandigarh man possesses the belief to be a title contender.
Jazz Janewattananond 110-1
The Signature Course is unusual and a shock to newcomers. Punters are probably wise to focus on players who got a look at it last year. Jazz Janewattananond finished 34th and has never missed a cut in five Indian Open starts.
Janewattananond courageously came through European Tour Q School in November with a final-hole eagle, then qualified for the Open Championship through fourth place in the Singapore Open in January.
The calm and promising 22-year-old Thai has already won on the Asian Tour, a circuit on which he made more birdies than anyone else in 2017, and can play with freedom in the Indian Open knowing he already has a European Tour card in his pocket.
Others to note
The chipping and putting master is seeking to complete a hat-trick of Indian Open titles having won the event for the last two years. The emphatic champion of 12 months ago is difficult to rule out.
The Argentinian is eager to get back into the top 64 of the world rankings to secure a spot in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. He has been playing well on the US Tour and looks a huge threat if he takes a liking to the layout.
The Australian has played some of the best golf of his life over the last four months. He won the NSW Open by six shots in November and was sixth in Dubai in January. He is a threat to all, but making his course debut.
The Japanese jester has been producing great golf for several years, most recently when fifth in the Maybank Championship a month ago. Another dangerous newcomer to the Signature Course.
The Essex man is on the long list of in-form course debutants who could contend if quickly getting a handle on the track. He was runner-up to Eddie Pepperell in Qatar last time out.
The Korean impressed in the Gulf at the start of the year and possesses the short-game skills to compete well at the DLF Club.
2pts each-way 55-1 bet365
1pt each-way 125-1 general
1pt each-way 110-1 bet365
Course Signature Course, DLF Golf and Country Club, New Delhi, India
Prize money €1.42m (€236,315 to the winner)
Length 7,379 yards Par 72 Field 144
Course records – 72 holes 278 SSP Chawrasia (2017) 18 holes 66 David Horsey (2017)
Course winner taking part SSP Chawrasia (2017)
When to bet By 1.30am Thursday
Where to watch Live on Sky Sports from 5.30am Thursday
Time difference India is five and a half hours ahead of the UK and Ireland
Last week – Tshwane Open 1 G Coetzee (12-1), 2 S Horsfield (100-1), 3 M Korhonen (80-1), T4 F Aguilar (175-1), S Gros (250-1), D Van Tonder (150-1)
Course overview The tournament moved from New Delhi GC to DLF G&CC for the first time as a European Tour event last year.
DLF hosted the Indian Open when it was merely an Asian Tour gathering in 2009, but that was on the old Arnold Palmer design.
The Indian Open was exclusively on the Asian Tour until 2015, when the European Tour co-sanctioned for the first time.
DLF's Palmer design has hosted four previous European Tour events – the 2008 Johnnie Walker Classic and the Avantha Masters from 2010 through 2012. Gary Player has since created a brand new layout – the Signature Course – which opened in 2015.
The new set-up made DLF an undulating, parkland beast, with numerous water hazards, thick sections of rough, rocks and deep bunkers. The par-threes and par-fives are long – the par-three 16th is 256 yards on the card, and the par-five 15th is 631. The layout is 700 feet above sea level, providing more carry, and the greens are full of grain.
The story of last year SSP Chawrasia successfully defended his title, cruising to a seven-shot success with a ten-under-par total.
Weather forecast Hot, sunny and calm all week.
Type of player suited to challenge The DLF is extremely difficult, the peculiar greens providing the main challenge. They are large, undulating and require exquisite touch. Accuracy is important, but short-game skills more so.
Key attribute Touch/putting.
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