Gallacher happy to be back to defend Hero Indian Open title after almost four years
Khel Today Bureau
Gurugram: Stephen Gallacher finally gets the opportunity to defend his Hero Indian Open title more than 1400 days after he won it as India’s national open returns to the DP World Tour schedule for the first time in four years.
The field of 120 who will be playing for a record US$ 2 million purse has an exciting mix of proven winners and emerging talents at the stunning DLF Golf and Country Club layout by Gary Player.
Gallacher, who became the first Scot to lift the Hero Indian Open, finished with back-to-back birdies in 2019 to win by one. The 48-year-old’s victory was his first DP World Tour triumph since he won back-to-back titles in Dubai in 2013 and 2014.
Gallacher’s countryman Robert MacIntyre will make his Hero Indian Open debut this week as he looks to earn crucial Ryder Cup Rankings points ahead of this year’s biennial contest at Marco Simone in September, as will fellow Ryder Cup hopefuls Nicolai Højgaard and Guido Migliozzi, who both represented the triumphant Continental Europe team in last month’s Hero Cup.
Gallacher said, “I feel great. It’s 1,400-odd days since I was last here so there’s been a lot of hardship that’s happened since then but it’s great to be here and get the event played.
“There are plenty of great memories. It’s a course that’s not really changed very much, it’s in amazing condition, same as the last time we were here and I’ve got some great memories coming down the stretch. Hopefully I can replicate them this week.
“It’s just one of those courses you’ve got to be patient at; it’s not one you can force a score on. I had a poor hole on seven and then I think I had five or six birdies from then on in. Anything can happen. You’ve got to play with your head around here. Par is a good score. There’s some tough, tough holes and few you can attack but it’s just a really tough track and one of the best we play all year to be honest.”
He added, “I think the bunkers are brilliant. Aesthetically they look fantastic. They’re just like back home, revettes, but I know how hard they are to maintain a revetted bunker. The elements can wear them away back home and that’s why they’re there, for a purpose, but I think they look great. You’ve got to try and stay out of them, they’re deep, but it is what it is, it’s an unbelievable golf course to play visually. It’s stunning, the bunkers make it look just so good, you’ve got the plants, big swales, it’s just a good track and I think it looks brilliant.”
Thomas Bjorn, who was the captain of the 2018 Ryder Cup winning European team, was all praise for the event and the effort put in by Dr Pawan Munjal, Chairman and CEO of Hero Motocorp, the sponsors of the National Open since 2005.
He said, “When you’ve got people Pawan Munjal who puts his heart into golf and into other sports, it’s great. He obviously runs a very successful business here in India and he’s very successful in driving that business. He’s got his heart set on supporting the game of golf and other sports. These people don’t come around very often and he’s got a great love for this game. He’s got a great relationship with Tiger, supporting his event in America; he stepped up to support the Dubai Desert Classic this year when we needed a new sponsor. He took that title and took it well and was happy with the way it developed. Then this event, at home, is important to him, it’s close to his heart and we come here as players and we can see how much it means to him.”
Thorbjørn Olesen, who won his seventh DP World Tour title at last week’s Thailand Classic, will look to continue his good form upon his return to India as part of a strong Danish contingent.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been to India and it’s been on my schedule from when I made it in December. It’s still a very important week for me. There’s a break after this so I want to try my best this week to have a really good finish and see if I can climb up that Ranking a little bit more. It’s an important week, for sure.
“It’s very important, all that work I’ve put in during the winter and at the end of last year is starting to pay off. I saw glimpses of it in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and it’s just slowly getting better. Last week (in Thailand), a lot of that work clicked and I felt comfortable, which was nice.”
Fellow Dane, Nicolai Hojgaard, who won the Hero Shootout on Tuesday, said, “I’m feeling good. Looking forward to playing here in India. It’s a different week, different type of course and overall, just excited to get going again.
“Compared to last week it’s a little bit different off the tee. It’s a tight course, you get rewarded for hitting the fairways and I think this week it’s just about keeping it out of trouble and keeping the ball alive on certain holes. There are a few scoreable holes out there but it’s a difficult course. If you’re on your game you can shoot some good scores around here but if you’re slightly off-line you can get punished a bit.”
Marquee groups: Round 1
07:25: Kazuki Higa (Jpn), Renato Paratore (Ita), Shiv Kapur (Ind)
07:35: Angel Hidalgo (Esp), Alex Fitzpatrick (Eng), Gaganjeet Bhullar (Ind)
07:55: Shubhankar Sharma (Ind), Gavin Green (Mas), David Law (Sco)
08:05: Nicolai Højgaard (Den), Robert Macintyre (Sco), Guido Migliozzi (Ita)
12:15: Søren Kjeldsen (Den), Edoardo Molinari (Ita), Thomas Bjørn (Den)
12:25: Jorge Campillo (Esp), Manu Gandas (Ind), Stephen Gallacher (Sco)
12:35: Yannik Paul (Ger), Sachin Baisoya (Ind), Thorbjørn Olesen (Den)
12:45: Jeunghun Wang (Kor), Kalle Samooja (Fin), S.S.P. Chawrasia (Ind).