A return to India for the European Tour and something of a final hurrah ahead of a month-long break for the bulk of the membership (the next event for them will be the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco at the end of April).
This event was once played at Delhi GC, an old style course that sneaked between trees and temples; now it jumps and jolts around a somewhat eccentric invention of Gary Player at the DLF G&CC.
The first year the course was used the field was somewhat baffled by the test and only S.S.P. Chawrasia thrived, eventually winning by seven shots.
Twelve months ago Matt Wallace bumped into Darren Clarke early in the week and the ex-Ryder Cup captain suggested to Wallace in an aside that it would take an extremely patient approach to succeed. The Englishman took it as a challenge, spent the week determined to prove he was up to the task and so it transpired as he bested ‘Beef’ Johnston in a play-off.
2018 Top Five
-11 Matt Wallace DD: 16, DA: 7, GIR: 20, Scr: 5, PA: 5, AA: 2
-11 Andrew Johnston DD: 15, DA: 24, GIR: 2, Scr: 1, PA: 4, AA: 1
-8 Sihwan Kim DD: 63, DA: 7, GIR: 5, Scr: 2, PA: 33, AA: 15
-7 Pablo Larrazabal DD: 9, DA: 45, GIR: 17, Scr: 28, PA: 32, AA: 34
-7 Matthias Schwab DD: 11, DA: 7, GIR: 1, Scr: 25, PA: 13, AA: 3
2017 Top Five
-10 S.S.P. Chawrasia DD: 67, DA: 12, GIR: 31, Scr: 1, PA: 7, AA: 8
-3 Gavin Green DD: 60, DA: 28, GIR: 31, Scr: 45, PA: 1, AA: 34
-2 Scott Jamieson DD: 16, DA: 7, GIR: 3, Scr: 55, PA: 5, AA: 1
-2 Matteo Manassero DD: 58, DA: 12, GIR: 10, Scr: 7, PA: 43, AA: 15
-1 Rafa Cabrera Bello DD: 21, DA: 41, GIR: 4, Scr: 57, PA: 23, AA: 23
-1 Anirban Lahiri DD: 11, DA: 49, GIR: 20, Scr: 54, PA: 8, AA: 19
-1 Carlos Pigem DD: 26, DA: 35, GIR: 1, Scr: 44, PA: 13, AA: 9
There is no getting away from the fact that this venue is a strange one. It would take a brave man to wander the player’s lounge, parroting designer Gary Player favourite phrase (“The more you practise, the luckier you get”) because the track seems designed to hurt shots which are far from poor. You can often judge a course by the cautious words of praise which the players utter and this place redefines such golfing platitudes. Note, however, the prompt which aided Wallace, remember also that Johnston has won at the tough test of Valderrama, and that Chawrasia was blessed, in his victory, with a yoga master’s calm.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Matt Cooper joined Dan Roebuck and Gordon Brand Jr. on the European Tour Race to Dubai Golf Podcast to discuss the Hero Indian Open, review last week's Maybank Championship, and hit on the WGC-Match Play, as well. LISTEN NOW.
It is going to be hot (high 90s), humid (80%+), cloudy but with little chance of rain, with the breeze at its height at the weekend (yet forecast to be no more than 12mph).
Matt Wallace (2018): "Every hole is a double bogey waiting to happen."
Pablo Larrazabal (2018): "This is the toughest golf course we play. Red numbers are awesome."
Anirban Lahiri (2018): "I missed a lot of shots, just put myself in bad positions. This course, you can't really do that."
Eddie Pepperell (2017): "That's the most stressful three under par I think I've ever shot. Not because I played badly. I played really, really well. Literally every shot, something can go wrong. It's going to be a long week mentally more than anything. It's quite a walk and mentally it will be very draining to stay up there, if you're up there the whole week in contention. You've really got to take some pressure off yourself."
The Leading Contenders
His form is re-energized after a downward spiral in the second half of last year swept into the early weeks of 2019. He was T2 in both Oman and Qatar then added T20 last week in the Maybank Championship. He missed the cut last year on the course, but he is 4-for-6 in India with T2 at DLF’s Palmer course and T10 in this event at Delhi GC.
It’s now quite unusual to see him have a crack at the European Tour, but he’s always been a regular at home and his record there is superb. He has 25 starts at Asian Tour level there which includes four wins and a total of 12 top tens (T5 and T34 on the course). He was a solid T30 in the Valspar Championship last week.
He has eight top ten finishes in his last 12 starts around the world and if only the last of those was at European Tour level it was coming (he finished top 30 in the Vic Open and World Super 6 Perth). Only T34 and MC on the course, but is 9-for-11 in India.
His return to action was going in great style after a missed cut in Hong Kong. He was T38 in Dubai, T18 in Saudi Arabia and T12 in Oman, but a withdrawal followed in Qatar. He’s played in the country just the once, when T9 in the Avantha Masters at Jaypee Greens in 2013.
Struggled with a muscle injury late in 2018 and took four months to recuperate. His return in Malaysia last week was impressive as he ticked rounds of 69-71-73-68 to finish T20. His memory of the course will be a little fearful however: He shot 76-82 to miss the cut by miles.
Opened the season with T6 at the Hong Kong Open, but hasn’t been able to maintain that momentum. That said he was T2 in an Indian Tour event in February and T30 last week in Malaysia. T40 on the course in 2017 and then T7 last year when carding a superb 64 in the second round.
The German is in a wonderful stretch of form, but the win remains elusive. He was T2 in the Oman Open, T14 at the Qatar Masters and then T5 last week in the Maybank Championship. Missed the cut with two 76s in 2017, but was T15 in the tournament in 2016 and won in India on the 2012 Challenge Tour.
A fifth tournament start and he’s set a trend. He missed the cut, then was T27 at Delhi GC; missed the cut first time here (71-80) and then T40 last year (75-72-75-73). Opened the season with five consecutive missed cuts and has then been T2 in the Qatar Masters and solo second last week in the Maybank Championship. How will he respond to the play-off loss?
A fourth of these contenders who seems sure to win sooner or later – but will it actually happen? He’s only played the course once and that was last year when he shot 72-77 to miss the cut. T2 in the Qatar Masters and T15 last week in Malaysia.
He is 4-for-8 this season, with T31-T32 in his last two starts. That’s steady rather than anything else, but he’ll have some hopes this week owing to a fine course record which saw him finish runner-up in 2017 and T16 last year.