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A relatively new event on the European Tour this week as we move to New Delhi, India for the 3rd consecutive year and to a tournament which is being tri-sanctioned by the European Tour, Asian Tour and the PGT of India. Golf in India is in a period of rapid growth right now and a number of the nation's home-grown talent will be teeing it up with some of the more recognised European Tour players this week, although despite the €1.8m prize fund this still has the feeling of a lower-grade event compared to some of the events we've had so far this term.
Back to defend his title is 2-time European Tour winner SSP Chowrasia who obliged at a huge 3-figure price last year, having secured his maiden victory on Indian soil also back in 2008. Chowrasia arrived here last year in almost unbackable form - 17 missed cuts in 21 events prior to winning tells us everything we need to know! Will it be an Indian hat-trick for the Calcutta native - he's hovering around the 55/1 mark at present, however I'll be giving him a swerve this week...
The DLF Golf and Country Club course was designed by Arnold Palmer below the Avaralli Hills and is a par 72 of a relatively short 7,156 yards. There's a good mix of holes - 4 par 5s, 4 par 3s and some good variation in the par 4s with 3 under 375 yards and 3 approaching 500 yards. As with most Arnold Palmer designs, you'll need to think your way around the course, plus with water in play on a number of holes - creeks and lakes-a-plenty, particularly on the closing holes - plus out-of-bounds on a couple of the tighter holes, this will demand a degree of accuracy and strategic placement off the tee to the narrow, sloping fairways. That said, the rough isn't particularly punishing this year following a cold and dry winter and hitting the fairway is more about finding a way to score as opposed to avoiding a bogey.
The greens are small and undulating grainy Bermuda which will measure around 10.5 on the stimp and will tend to favour the more aggressive putters and those with positive results on this type of surface. One other factor is the bunkers which are numerous and deep. If you're missing greens then a great sand game is essential otherwise bogeys await. That said, with calm weather forecast we should some scoring opportunities from in-form players who can get the ball into position off the tee and a score around -18 should be the target.
My selections for this week are as follows:
Arrow-straight Scot Richie Ramsay gets the nod as my top selection this week despite an indifferent set of results so far in 2012. For me, those courses weren't set up to appeal to Richie's strengths and this week's shorter, more strategic affair in India should be much more up his alley. He's historically taken a few events to shake off the festive rust so there's no need to see his form of 48/MC/51 as anything more than a warm-up for the 2012 season and this could well be where things really start to take off for the 28 year-old from Aberdeen.
Ramsay finished 2011 in fine fashion with 6 consecutive cuts made and 3 finishes inside the top 4, including 3rd at the tree-lined Valderamma and 4th on Bermuda greens in Hong Kong. 14th in this event on debut in 2010 - he'll know enough about this course now to improve on that finish now that he's back in an event that appeals to his strengths as he looks to build on his solitary European Tour victory in South Africa back in 2010. RESULT: M/C
Frenchman Havret is another of those frustrating players to back - so often he gets himself onto the fringes of contention without pushing on and securing that all-important win. Fast finishes in Portugal (3rd) and Hong Kong (2nd) look strong on paper, however both came from off the pace and in neither was he really in the thick of the action coming down the stretch. That said, another strong result at Valderamma (6th) and Castellon (11th) in the Autumn suggests a player who's in good form and this drop in class could be the critical factor this week as he looks to add a 4th European Tour title to his tally.
2012 has also started slowly for Gregory, however successive top-25 finishes in Qatar and last week in Dubai are encouragement enough to warrant backing in this grade of event on a course where he finished 3rd last year after an opening 72 had left him with work to do to make the cut. 19 birdies over the final 3 days wasn't quite enough to win, however if he gets off to a respectable start this week then expect him to be heavily in the mix come Sunday afternoon. RESULT: T14
There's a division in the bookmakers' opinions about the German after a few weeks of improving results - Totesport and Bet Fred are as short as 18/1 about Siem to record his long-awaited second win on the European Tour and the 33/1 on offer from Bet365 looks a little on the generous side to me. I must admit, the 31 year-old isn't a regular selection for me due to his hot-headed nature when in contention, however I was impressed with his demeanour throughout Sunday's final round in the last group with Westwood and Gallacher - he certainly didn't collapse and he'll find the competition here in India of a significantly lower quality.
You can stretch Marcel's current upturn in form all the way back to September last year where a closing round of 65 in Switzerland set up a run of 6 top-13 finishes in 10 events, culminating in last week's effort in a strong grade. It's imperative now that he keeps pedal-to-metal this week as he can effectively secure his 2013 card with a decent finish in India - for me there's another week's form in Siem and well worth following at 33s. RESULT: T2
Like Siem, there's considerable differences of opinion on Robert Coles' chances this week with some firms as short as 55/1 about the Londoner this week as he seeks to improve on his runners-up finish here last year. The 100/1 price is justified by some bookies by Coles' start to the 2012 season - form of MC/MC/66 hardly inspires confidence, however he arrived here last year in similar form of 58/MC/MC and looking back over his recent history you'll find similar trends before big performances - he's simply the kind of player that can find form seemingly from nowhere. Last week showed some promise with his tee-to-green game in good order generally and he'd have been in much closer order on Sunday were it not for a disastrous start which say him 5 over through 10 holes on Thursday - to fight back to make the cut from there was a feat in itself. The question is, at 100/1 is it worth a punt to see if this is the week for Coles to break his European Tour duck?
Looking back at last year's event, Coles was leading with 9 holes to go before a barren back 9 - culminating in a bogey on the reachable par 5 18th - let SSP Chowrasia sneak in for a 1-shot victory with his closing par. Heartbreak for Coles and whilst the €200,000 prize money virtually secured his 2010 card, he's still searching for that elusive first win. He clearly enjoyed the course on debut and excelled on the putting surfaces all week - a facet which will serve him well again this week as the grainy Bermuda won't be to everyone's tastes and he's got a big score to settle...RESULT: M/C
Our tips, picks and predictions for the 2013 edition of this event will be published here on the Tuesday before the event - bookmark this page and come back soon!