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Atwal, Randhawa to lead Indian challenge at Open

New Delhi: Following rapid strides in the international circuit last year, Arjun Atwal and Jyoti Randhawa are expected to give a tough fight not only to the foreigners but also the Indian tour veterans in the Royal Challenge Indian Open golf championship starting Thursday.

Ever since Ali Sher broke new ground becoming the first Indian in 26 years to win the coveted Indian Open in 1991, there has been renewed hope and belief among the Indians of putting it across the foreigners. P. G. Sethi was the first Indian to win it way back in 1965.

And with the rise of the big three on the Indian scene —Atwal (1999 winner), Jeev Milkha Singh and Randhawa (2000 winner) — there has been no looking back.

This edition features the top seven in the Asian PGA and it speaks a lot about the strength of the field in this $300,000 championship, undoubtedly the biggest event in the country.

While holder Vijay Kumar is all set to defend his title, Thai star Thongchai Jaidee (2001 winner), pulled out at the last moment citing “prior commitments”.

Randhawa and Atwal, fresh from their exploits in the Dynasty Cup in Shenzen, China, are keen to stamp their authority by winning the title.

“There is nothing like winning a national title. I am prepared to give everyone else a good fight,” Randhawa said.

He, however, will face tough challenge from Atwal, who is in excellent nick after his win in the Malaysian Open, Australian Brad Kennedy and Scot Simon Yates.

Randhawa, who became the first Indian ever to finish atop the Asian PGA Order of Merit last year, was also aware of the kind of threat posed by Indian tour veterans and former winners Ali Sher and Firoz Ali.

Mukesh Kumar has sizzled this season with as many as 10 titles under his belt while Digvijay Singh has also emerged as a force to reckon with.

Both Randhwa and Atwal got a taste of the domestic challenge when they were defeated 51-59 by the Mukesh-Digvijay duo in an international match Tuesday.

The Delhi Golf Course, which is hosting the event, is looking at its best, a fact conceded by the contestants.

Yates said the course was in excellent shape and should provide ample entertainment.

“It (the greens) will get quicker as the championship progresses and we can all look forward to some real competitive stuff,” said the Scot who has made Thailand his home.

With the excitement building up and the conditions perfect, the next four days promise some good golf for the connoisseurs.

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