Defending champ makes it look easy with repeat win at Hero Indian Open

March 12, 2017


The cautious manner in which the now two-time champion, S.S.P. (Shiv Sankar Prasad) Chawrasia, played the final hole of the Hero Indian Open at the DLF Golf & Country Club aptly told the story of a somewhat wacky week and underlined the eccentricities of the Gary Player-designed layout. Without ever leaving the fairway on the rock, rough and water-strewn 624-yard par 5, the diminutive Calcutta-native teed-off with a 3-wood, then hit sand wedge/8-iron/sand wedge to the green en route to completing a seven-shot victory with a two-putt bogey 6.

And there’s more. On the previous hole, Chawrasia’s blind approach struck the massive rocks beyond the putting surface and rebounded safely onto the putting surface. In contrast, his playing partner, Gavin Green of Malaysia, saw his second shot hit the railroad ties supporting the bank of a bunker and careen off into the spectacularly rocky hazard short and right of the green. Little wonder then that only seven men were under par at the end of an eventful four days in the Indian capital of New Delhi. And little wonder then that play was painfully slow, one understandably disgruntled competitor reporting that it took four hours to complete 12 holes on the rain-affected third day.

Still, none of the above should detract from the beautifully controlled performance put in by Chawrasia, one of the shorter hitters on the European circuit. That closing bogey was one of only six dropped shots recorded by the 39-year-old four-time European Tour champion. Remarkably too, all four have come both in his home country and the same city. The Delhi Golf Club was the scene of Chawrasia’s victories in the 2008 Indian Masters and 2016 Hero Indian Open. And now he has two wins at the DLF, the first the 2011 Avantha Masters.

Having predicted a winning score of 10 under par at the beginning of the week, Chawrasia proved himself prescient as well as proficient by hitting that mark exactly with his closing 71. No one else was close. Green was alone in second place, one shot ahead of Scotland’s Scott Jamieson and former BMW PGA champion Matteo Manassero. Two of the only three players in the field ranked inside the world’s top 100—Rafa Cabrera-Bello of Spain and India’s Anirban Lahiri—were in the group of three tied for fifth spot.

“I’m winning back-to-back so I’m really very happy,” said Chawrasia, who entered the week as an 80-1 shot with the (for once) surprisingly generous bookmakers. “This is a very tough course, so I’m just trying to play straight and to the right place. I played very consistently this week. After driving [on the 18th] I was thinking, Now I’ve won the tournament. I know on the 18th hole, driving is very, very tough.”

So, of course, was just about everything else.