Nov 17, 2016: India’s Chiragh Kumar is eagerly looking forward to defending his title for the first time at the Panasonic Open India next month, after easing off the pressure of securing his playing rights on the Asian Tour for 2017.
Kumar got the monkey off his back after a tied-fourth finish in Manila last week propelled him to 40th place on the Order of Merit, putting him well inside the top-60 cutoff mark to retain his Tour card for the next season.
“I played solid last week. I putted well. It was nice to finish the way I did. I think I have kept my card for now. It’s a big relief heading into the last few events on the Asian Tour. I can go out there and play with that big pressure off my shoulder now,” said the 32-year-old Indian.
Kumar claimed his breakthrough victory at the venerable Delhi Golf Club some 12 months ago where he prevailed with a three-shot win over Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh and Thai veteran Thaworn Wiratchant.
“There aren’t too many titles i have to defend so I am looking forward to going back there. It is good that I am playing well and I’ll carry some confidence heading into the event. There are so many memories from last year.
“It was so close to the very end and I knew I won only on the 18th green so that’s my fondest memory. It was an awesome feeling to grind it out and win,” added Kumar, a father of one.
He will be joined by a host of Asian Tour champions when he returns to challenge for a successful title defence at the US$400,000 Asian Tour event, which will be staged once again at the Delhi Golf Club from December 1 to 4.
Thaworn, who holds an unprecedented 18 victories on Tour, will feature in the Indian showpiece alongside countryman Prayad Marksaeng, as well as Indian stars Arjun Atwal, Rashid Khan and Gaganjeet Bhullar.
Young local prospect Shubhankar Sharma will also be looking to build on his recent good run of form to target a maiden Asian Tour title on home soil in two weeks’ time.
The 20-year-old Indian, who claimed two top-fives in his last three appearances at the Panasonic Open India, snatched the limelight when he fired two eagles in four holes to close with a whooping 10-under-par 62 in Manila last week.
“That was a special round. I haven’t played that well on the Asian Tour this year. I played well on the domestic Tour but just cannot get the same kind of confidence on the Asian Tour. I told myself that I have to play well as I need to keep my card for next year. I did that and it was really satisfying,” said Sharma, placed 57th on the Merit rankings.
Michael Tran, leading golfer of Vietnam, is also aiming to end his season on a high having received a timely boost of confidence following his tied-seventh result last week.
“It was my best result so far this season. I have been practising a lot. You kind of get excited when you see the results coming in. I will be ending my season at the Panasonic Open India and I hope to keep up my good form till then,” said the 27-year-old Tran.
Singapore’s Mardan Mamat, Steve Lewton of England and Thailand’s Poom Saksansin will also feature in the Panasonic Open India, which is the penultimate event of the 2016 Asian Tour season.
Asian Tour Release