Sep 11, 2019: The inaugural Classic Golf and Country Club International Championship, co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and PGTI, will present a new set of challenges to the field of 156 players which includes 82 Indians.
The Classic Golf and Country Club is staging its first international event since 2009 and as such most of the leading Indian contenders this week are also teeing it up in an international event at the CG&CC for the first time.
Top Indian names such as Chikkarangappa, Khalin Joshi and Viraj Madappa, play their first Asian Tour event at the CG&CC this week. However, they will be looking to maintain the terrific track record of Indians on home soil in recent years.
It needs to be highlighted that since 2014 India has staged 13 Asian Tour events out of which 10 have been won by Indians. That’s an incredible success rate of 77 per cent.
Chikkarangappa, the highest-placed Indian in the Asian Tour money list at 21st place, has not been in the best of form on the Asian Tour of late but will take heart from his good performances at the CG&CC at TATA Steel PGTI events in the past. He has posted two third place finishes at the venue in 2013 and 2016.
Chikka said, “I got my podium finish in my second professional event in PGTI here at the Classic Golf and Country Club so a lot of good memories out here.
“I had a top 10 finish at the Indian Open and I also played two events on the PGTI this year and won both. My form has been good, it’s just that my putter has been a little cold. But once it gets hot, the way I’m striking the ball I think I should be able to go a lot deeper.
“After I made sure my card was done in the first half itself, I’ve been working on a couple of things with my coach and now those things are falling into place.
“If one compares to 2009 when Chapchai Nirat shot that world record score of 32-under at the SAIL Open, the course set up is tougher now as the rough is up. It’s much more difficult to recover from the rough now.”
Khalin Joshi, who won his maiden Asian Tour title at the Panasonic Open India last year, has not been able to replicate that form this year. However, he will be buoyed by the fact that he won a PGTI event at the CG&CC in 2016.
Khalin said, “It’s my first Asian Tour event at the CG&CC but I will draw confidence from my win here back in 2016 during a PGTI event.”
Viraj Madappa, who also broke through on the Asian Tour last year with victory at the TAKE Solutions Masters, now hopes to turn around an ordinary season with a top performance at the CG&CC this week.
Viraj said, “It feels good to be back playing in India. I think playing anywhere in India is kind of an advantage for us. Feels very comfortable, a lot of people over here will probably be rooting for us, not just me.
“Growing up I’ve played a few events over here, so I do know this place a little bit. Not as much as some of the courses I normally play in Bengaluru and Kolkata, but I have played it enough times to know a little bit about it.
“I feel really good about my game. I’ve had two positive weeks coming into this week, so I’m excited about being here and playing in front of a home crowd”, said Viraj.
Ajeetesh Sandhu is another pre-tournament favourite from India. Ajeetesh, currently 23rd on the Asian Tour money list, is among the few Indian contenders this week who played the 2009 Asian Tour event at the CG&CC.
Sandhu, the man with two runner-up finishes at PGTI events played at CG&CC, said, “I’ve had a consistent season on the Asian Tour despite having no high finish except a runner-up result in Bangladesh. My scores from the last three weeks don’t reflect how well I’ve played. My form’s been good, I just need to put up the scores now.”
The couple of other Indian names to watch out will be Rashid Khan, a winner of two PGTI events this year, as well as the legendary Jyoti Randhawa, the only Indian to win an international event at the CG&CC till date.
The CG&CC has staged three international events in the past, the 2000 and 2001 editions of the Indian Open and the 2009 SAIL Open, all Asian Tour events. Jyoti Randhawa bagged the first of his three Indian Open titles at the CG&CC in the year 2000. The other two events played at the venue were won by the Thai duo of Thongchai Jaidee (2001 Indian Open) and Chapchai Nirat (2009 SAIL Open).
Twenty countries have representation at this week’s tournament. India has the largest contingent of 82 followed by Thailand which is represented by 13 players.