Players Insider at the CG Open
As the 2016 PGTI season draws to an end, the race for the Rolex Player of the Year title has entered an intriguing phase. There are several contenders in the fray with just three events remaining in the season.
The first of these three events, the Rs. 1 crore CG Open 2016, tees off at the Bombay Presidency Golf Club (BPGC) in Mumbai on November 23. With the CG Open champion set to take home a purse of Rs. 15 lakh, the tournament might well be decisive in determining this season’s Rolex Ranking champion.
Defending champion Ashok Kumar of Delhi will be one of the top contenders as he relishes playing at the BPGC having won two editions of the CG Open at the venue. Ashok won a title last month and is raring to go at one of his favourite courses. The 33-year-old is currently placed 17th in the money list, but a win at BPGC could give him a shot at the Rolex Ranking crown.
“It's good to be back here as the defending championship. My mindset this week will be the same as always and I enter every event only to win. This is a lucky course for me as I have good performances over the years. The pressure of being defending champion and the expectation of winning once again will definitely weigh on me this week.”
“My 100% focus is on playing to win as always. You look at Anirban and Gaganjeet and they are used to winning on the Asian Tour. It is a matter of getting the experience and everybody has the mindset of doing well on a certain tour.”
“Indians are doing really well and it is great for Indian Golf. Honey has a mature mind and I don't think there's anyone except him who has hit 15 eagles or more in a season. He is really focused on playing well and is putting in the hard-work. He will go to a different league if he continues to remain focused and I'm happy to see him win.”
“The greens and fairways this week are very good. It's a beautiful golf course with good weather and is always a treat to play.”
“The gameplan this week will be to keep it in play and not make any unforced errors. It's a short and narrow course which is scoring and holing putts will be very important this week.”
“There is no particular stretch on the golf course which is tough, have to remain 100% focused throughout the round. There is no uniform strategy as such and every hole will have to be played with a different plan.”
“I have been struggling with a wrist injury this season and have only been able to play in 6 events. I hope to play a lot more and progress to the Asian tour and do well.”
However, the seasoned reigning champion will face a stiff challenge from the youth brigade comprising of the likes of Rashid Khan, Shubhankar Sharma, Khalin Joshi, Honey Baisoya and Ajeetesh Sandhu.
Delhi’s Rashid Khan, a winner of two titles on the PGTI this season, will be looking to set the record straight at the CG Open where he has lost two playoffs in recent years. Rashid, placed seventh in the rankings, won’t let his mentor, Ashok Kumar, have it easy at the BPGC
“I have been nursing a left wrist injury since the last two weeks and that is why I had to withdraw in Phillipines and pull out of the Indonesia event. The wrist is bothering me quite and I hope to be injury-free soon.”
“I would like to set the record straight at this event as I have been in a playoff twice at this event and lost. I want to do well this week and try to win.”
“If you hit it straight on this course, you are only left with wedges in to the greens which is a huge advantage and leaves you with birdie putts. The par-5's are reachable for me and there will be a lot of people with good scores”.
“The key holes this week will be 9, 14 and 15.If I can play those holes well, I think I'll be fine.”
The 20-year-old Shubhankar Sharma, placed third in the Rolex Ranking, will be inspired by his recent top-5 finish on the Asian Tour that all but secured his card for next year..
“I am sitting in 53rd position on the Asian Tour just now and hope to seal the deal for my card for 2017 by playing well at the Panasonic Open.”
“I played solidly in Philippines and my course-record tying final round helped me a lot. I knew I had to finish in the top 5 and even though I was 8 under after 3 rounds I was only in the 30's on the leaderboard. I kept telling myself to not give up and continue to play aggresive Golf.”
“The gameplan this week will be to hit the ball well. It's a scoring course and you need to keep the ball in play. The rough is not too bad and the course is playing easy. The greens are good and have the right combination of soft and hard.“
“It is inspiring to see the guys win on the Asian tour in the last couple of weeks. Even in Phillipines, there were 4 Indians in the top 6 and it is very good for all the youngsters on the local tour.”
“My goal was to keep my Asian tour card and I started off well. I played well at the Indian open and in Bangladesh but then couldn't get it done early. I was very focused in Manaila tdo well and play well at the key moments.”
“Honey Baisoya is playing fantastic Golf and I am very happy for him. We go back a long way as we grew up playing together and he has it in him to get to the next level.”
“The final goal of the season is to finish high on the Rolex rankings and these last few weeks will be centered around that goal.”
The 24-year-old Bengalurean Khalin Joshi, another winner on the PGTI this season, is currently placed fifth in the rankings. He is keen to put together a solid week in Mumbai in order to stake his claim to the Rolex Ranking title.
“I absolutely love Mumbai and I love this course. I missed the event last year as I was playing on the Asian Tour but I am excited to play this event.”
“I feel there was a little more rough 2 years ago and the course is playing a little easier this time around. I see more grain on the greens and they look slower. There will be plenty of birdie opportunities out there and expect there to be some low scores. Putting will be really important this week and hopefully I can do that.”
“I have been driving it better off late and more accurately. My short game is still a work in progress and needs more work”.
“I would like to win this week and do my best here at this great course. I hope I can bring in my Asian tour experience to use and play some good golf.”
“My main focus is definitely on keeping my card on the Asian Tour and I know that I have to win the Panasonic open to achieve that.”
“Seeing Indians win on the Asian tour two weeks in a row is inspiring and it is a proud moment for India.”
“Honey Baisoya is a good buddy of mine and we grew up playing together. I am really happy for him, he has a great game and it was about time that he started winning. I think the biggest difference is his mindset, he looks more relaxed which is helping him play better. He's not focusing too much on results and is enjoying playing once again.”
Udayan Mane is another player who will be looking to string together four solid rounds this week at the course where he grew up playing.
In his rookie season in 2015, he posted 2 wins and 6 top 10's and in the process, he won the “Emerging player of the year” award.
The player who practices in Bangalore said, “Unfortunately, I got hepatitis A for 2 months and had to sit the first two months out. I have played in 5 events since my comeback to the tour. I am still trying to play my way back in to form.
“The greens this week are firm and bouncy. The rough is not too punishing but you can get unlucky with flyers out of it.There will definitely be a premium on placing the ball in the fairway. “
This season, he has accumulated 6 top 10's and only now he feels up to speed after playing a few events in a row.
“This is my home course and I have the home support on my side and I know the course inside out. The gameplan will be to play it like any other week, stay aggressive and not think too much about the venue.”
“I grew up here so everyone knows me here and it would be good to win this week.I want to progress on to the Asian Tour next year and win over there.”
He added, “Indians are as good as any other players on the Asian tour. It is just a matter of settling down on the tour and playing like any other event. Anirban comes back to Asia after the PGA Tour and feels right at home. So, I think it's a matter of getting comfortable and having the self-belief to get it done.”
“This week I want a strong finish no matter how I do it. There's no pictures on the scorecard and I want to get it done this week.”
Ajeetesh Sandhu, currently fourth in the Rolex Ranking, would be another major contender this week. The golfer from Chandigarh would be in high spirits having recently made it to the Final Stage of the Japan Golf Tour’s Qualifying School.
The 20-year-old Delhi golfer Honey Baisoya’s second position in the Rolex Ranking makes him the highest-ranked player in the field. Baisoya, riding on the success of his twin triumphs in the last two weeks, will be another name to watch out for at the CG Open 2016.