02 February 2019: It is not often that a familiar dance evokes a fresh breath of energy. Indian golf though is all set to usher in a new era when the PGTI Tour kicks off its 2019 calendar with the Golconda Masters in Hyderabad next week. A stellar field of golfers is set to enthral fans as the Tour sets sail at the picturesque Hyderabad Golf Club, built around heritage structures in the same neighbourhood as the Golconda Fort.
Four of the top five men on the 2018 order of merit will be in attendance for the first full event of the 2019 calendar. Khalin Joshi, S Chikkarangappa, Om Prakash Chouhan and Shamim Khan will all vie for honours, with Viraj Madappa the lone absentee.
Now an open Tour with five points for the first place, the Indian circuit is all set to draw in a larger pool of talents from across the continent. The increased competition will enhance the stature of the tournaments and help our young golfers shorten their learning curve against some seasoned international golfers. The runners-up receive three points, with 2 for third place, 1.6 for fourth and 1.2 for a fifth-place finish.
That is nearly on par with the Asian Development Tour, which awards six points to the winner. There is still a long way to go but this is a great start for a new era in Indian golf. The Asian Tour awards 14 points to the winner, while a win on the Japanese Tour is worth 16 points. Both the European and PGA TOUR offer 24 points to the winner.
Over the past few years, Indian golf has enjoyed some promising results. Anirban Lahiri, SSP Chawrasia, Gaganjeet Bhullar, Shiv Kapur, Shubhankar Sharma, Rahil Gangjee, Ajeetesh Sandhu, S Chikkarangappa, Viraj and Khalin Joshi have all enjoyed the taste of international success in recent years.
Anirban is a steady presence on the PGA TOUR and despite some inconsistent results, he has also produced some top ten performances to secure his presence on the TOUR without too much difficulty.
SSP Chawrasia made the most of his familiarity with the DGC and DLF courses to notch up important victories that have opened the doors for him on the European Tour. Shubhankar joined him there last year with some sensational performances in Johannesburg and Kuala Lumpur. He also nearly pushed his way into the PGA TOUR, but after leading the WGC Mexico event through 54 holes, settled for a credible top ten finish.
Bhullar was expected to do well a long time ago, but after a spell of dry results, he has come to life over the past couple of seasons. He continues to enjoy a steady stream of results on the Asian and European Tours. Gangjee also showed he had fire left in the belly ending a 14-year drought with an emphatic victory in Japan.
The rest of our boys – Khalin, Chikka, Viraj and a few others have their cards secured for the Asian Tour. We can only expect their results to get better with time. With ranking points on offer, these boys will have an added incentive to play at home further strengthening the domestic Tour.
Good days lie ahead for Indian golf as we head into another Olympic season in just over twelve months from now.