The field in the Asian Tour’s Panasonic Open India in New Delhi this week might redefine the word choking as we know it in golf.
Smog, rather than pressure with a back-nine lead on Sunday, is far more likely to the culprit in a region plagued by some of the worst air pollution in the world. It could have golfers choking on the front nine on Thursday.
In 2017, Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi, called the city a “gas chamber,” and barring a stiff breeze the situation at Delhi Golf Club won’t be appreciably different.
An Agence France-Presse story on the city’s FirstPost news website previewing the tournament noted how bad the smog was for the Delhi half marathon on Sunday.
“Some runners wore masks…when the US embassy website showed levels of the smallest, most harmful air pollutants reached 199 — eight times the World Health Organization's recommended maximum,” it wrote.
Shiv Kapur, a native of New Delhi, is the defending champion and gives those accustomed to the air pollution an advantage. “I am like a street dog,” he said in the AFP story. “I am used to every kind of ailment and air quality that is out there.
“You are spending five hours outdoors in bad air and smog. You are out there for a long period of time. I think for some of us we are kind of immune to it now. But it's not a good thing, the visitors and foreigners struggle a bit more.”
“The past week has seen air quality in the Indian capital plunge again, with the Central Pollution Control Board recording an average air quality level of 272 on Monday. During Diwali [the annual Hindu festival of lights] last year, Delhi's air quality index reached 604.
“According to the World Health Organization, an acceptable level for humans to breathe regularly is 25.”