26 March 2019: Brandon Stone is making his first appearance in India and at the Gary Player layout at the DLF Golf and Country Club, while Austrian Bernd Wiesberger played at the same club five years ago but at the Arnold Palmer course during a 2014 European Tour event and both were awe-struck with their first look at the course.
At the same time, Aaron Rai, who has Indian heritage, calls it his favourite course and Shiv Kapur, who has missed the cut last two times, still feels he has played enough here to get some advantage from the familiarity.
Stone, who shot a 10-under 60 while winning the Scottish Open last year, said, “It’s my first time coming to India and so far, spectacular. I took my first tuk-tuk ride yesterday, which was a lot of fun, and my first time looking at the course today. Mr (Gary) Player has come up again with another very unique design.”
“My first look at the 17th hole and I wasn’t disappointed, alternative design so let’s say that the course is in spectacular condition, so I think it’s going to be a very fun week. There is a strong field here this week, a lot of local talent, and I am sure they are going to be vying to get their name on the Hero Indian Open trophy.”
He went on, “I don’t think there is going to be a dull moment out there. I think the highlight passages from the week are going to be a lot different to the other weeks we have around the world. It’s definitely not a boring golf course by any means. The condition of the golf course is spectacular – ten out of ten – the ground staff have done an incredible job here and Mr Player is notorious for designing golf courses that test every facet of your game and this one is no different.”
Shiv speaking of his relationship with the Hero Indian Open at DLF said, “I missed the cut the last two years so I will obviously be doing things differently. Tee to green I’ve played it well the past two years it just hasn’t been able to do well on the greens. This year the greens are playing quite different so my focus this time around is to try and focus more on the greens, the more you play this course you just learn where to miss it. It’s the kind of golf course where you can get quite defensive just knowing there is trouble everywhere and you have to confront it. Visually it’s a very intimidating golf course but the actual landing area is quite generous.”
Aaron Rai, who came for the Hero Indian Open last year said, “It (the course) is in incredible shape and is probably my favourite course in the world. It is very scenic to walk around, but more importantly, it is a great course, a great test, so you have to be on.
“It would be incredible. My grandparents from both my mum and dad’s side were born in India, so back home as well I family have Indian heritage, so to even compete in India is a blessing, so if it was to happen and go one step further that would be a privilege, especially around a course like this where you need to be on your mental, and physical game, so a long way to go but if that did happen it would be incredible and a dream come true.”
Wiesberger, who came to India for the 2014 edition of the Avantha Masters, now no longer held, had played at the Arnold Palmer course and finished Tied-61st. He said, “Just arrived yesterday. I haven’t been to India for five or six years so it’s nice to be back and I am looking forward to coming to a golf course that has been described as somewhat challenging, and something different to what we see on a regular basis.
Wiesberger missed out playing between May and November because of an injury. He said, “Unfortunately, I was out from May until November and that was quite a tough break for me not having any golf to play over summer with the injury in my left wrist. I still feel the effects of it a little bit, but I’m not where I want to be, so my results have not been anywhere to what I expect of myself but at the same time I am kind of taking it easy, week by week.”
Stone remembers seeing the 2018 edition on TV and recalled, “I remember watching the event last year and watching the shot that Matt Wallace hit on 18 to win and didn’t really think it was that good until I walked down the 18th fairway today and realised that was actually top class. I’m excited to be here for the event and hoping to put up a stern fight for the championship come Sunday.”