Far from the misty fairways of Pebble Beach, the inaugural Avantha Masters is taking place in India.
The venue is the DLF Golf and Country Club Just outside of New Delhi, and the course is an Arnold Palmer parkland design, that winds around several lakes. The Arivali Mountain Range forms a distinctive background.
The € 1.5 million tournament is tri-sanctioned between the European Tour, the Asian Tour and the Professional Golf Tour of India, and many are pointing to it as evidence of the growing strength of the Asian Tour and increasing role India may play in that development.
India goes somewhat "under the radar" on the Global Golf map, when you consider that it's produced more Asian Tour Order of Merit champions than any other country and in a country where cricket is revered, it's the fastest growing sport.
Players like Jeev Milkha Singh, Jyoti Randhawa, Arjun Atwal and Gaurav Ghei have made names for themselves internationally. Though still plagued by its reputation as an inaccessible sport for the utra-rich, there are now a number of organizations working to promote golf in India at the grass root level. Golf Next is one such organization, and with golf now in the Olympics, many feel there will be a push to develop public course and driving ranges throughout the country.
At the Avantha Masters, today's action was interrupted by an afternoon hailstorm, and a number of players will need to complete their second rounds tomorrow morning. Unfortunately, Jeev Singh will not be playing this weekend as he has no chance of making the cut. It's undoubtedly a masive disappointment for this player, currently ranked 59th in the world. His 15 international titles include not a single win in India, and it seems he's taking some heat for that.
An Indian player winning in India would focus a massive amount of attention on the sport and clearly, the planets seemed perfectly aligned for that player to be Mr. Singh this weekend. After all, he's placed 12th, 15th and 11th in his three starts on this particular course and just a week ago placed 15th at the Dubai Desert Classic. However, when one considers that in just the past month this global golfer has played two tournaments in the Middle East AND welcomed his first baby into the world. Well... I'm thinking exhaustion may have played a part in his less than stellar performance.
High hopes have also been dashed for other local players including Gaganjeet Bhullar, whose five Professional Golf Tour of India wins include one on this very course in September. However, with Rahil Gangjee in a tie for 8th and Jyoti Randhawa at T20 there's still hope of an Indian Champion by Sunday. Regardless of how the tournament turns out though, there's no denying that India will have a growing presence in the Global Golf Landscape.
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