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Diksha Dagar of India in action (Photo LET).

Khel Today Bureau 

Gurugram: The leading stars of the Ladies European Tour will return to action for the Hero Women’s Indian Open in less than a week’s time. With a purse of US$ 400,000 on offer, a strong collection of proven champions and stars of the future will clash at the DLF Golf and Country Club. Standing to gain immensely from this star-studded field will be a bunch of Indian women golfers, who are now regulars on the Ladies European Tour.

Johanna Gustavsson of Sweden during the final round at Lacoste Ladies Open de France (Photo LET).

The field of 120 showcases four of the top five in the current LET’s Order of Merit and seven winners from what has been a very strong and competitive 2023 season. It includes India’s star, Diksha Dagar, a two-time LET winner, currently fourth on the Order of Merit and Hero MotoCorp’s Brand Ambassador.

As the LET schedule reaches the closing stages of the 2023 season, one of the strongest-ever fields will come together for the event which will be held from October 19 to 22.

The four of the top-five stars from the LET’s Order of Merit include Johanna Gustavsson (Swe), Ana Pelaez Trivino (Esp), India’s own Diksha and Thailand’s Trichat Cheenglab.

The seven winners from the ongoing 2023 schedule include Sweden’s Lisa Pettersson (Helsingborg Open), Diksha Dagar (Tipsport Czech Ladies Open), Spain’s Carmen Alonso (Ladies Open by Pickala Resort), Spain’s Nuria Iturrioz (La Sella Open), Denmark’s Smilla Tarning Soenderby (KPMG Women’s Irish Open) and Thailand’s Trichat Cheenglab (Big Green Egg Open). They were joined by Sweden’s Johanna Gustavsson, who won the Lacoste Ladies Open de France, and has now vaulted to second place on the OOM.

Breakout season for Gustavsson and Trichat

Sweden’s Johanna Gustavsson, who is having a breakout season, leads the race in the chase to hunt down the leader, France’s Celine Boutier. Boutier’s twin wins at one of the majors, Evian Championship, and the Women’s Scottish Open in successive weeks put her in the top spot.

Gustavsson (1551.07) is just about 241 points behind Celine (1792.88). Gustavsson is just under 65 points ahead of Spaniard Ana Pelaez Trivino (1487.20) and close behind are home star Diksha Dagar (1484.61) and Thai sensation Trichat Cheenglab (1448.22). Ana, Diksha and Trichat are separated by less than 39 points, so there is a lot to play for them.

Gustavsson has one win and five other Top-10s including second at Ladies Open by Pickala, which was won by Spain’s Carmen Alonso, who is also playing at this year’s edition.

Trichat Cheenglab, who turned pro in 2016 joined the LET only this year and is also leading the Rookie of the Year race. She is keen on keeping a strong Thai tradition at the HWIO. Between 2008 and 2013, Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum won three times in 2008, 2009 and 2012 and in 2013, Thidappa Suwannapura won it. Both Phatlum and Thidappa now play on the LPGA.

With only three more events left in 2023 after the HWIO, the stakes are high as a win in India for any of the four will put them on top of the Order of Merit.

Diksha eyes historic Order of Merit triumph

India’s superstar, Diksha Dagar, has had the finest season of her career. She achieved her second LET win at the Tipsport Czech Ladies Open, where Thai Trichat was second. Diksha picked up pace after a slow start to the 2023 season and has been very consistent after that. She had an amazing five event run from the Belgian Ladies and was topped by a win at the Czech Ladies Open. She finished in Top-8 in four of them.

Another fine came run in the period between ISPS Handa Invitational to the VP Bank Swiss Ladies Open when she was in Top-7 in three of the four events. A week before the ISPS Handa, she finished T-21 at the AIG Women’s Open, the best finish by an Indian at the Major.

While Diksha is almost a certain to make the grade for the 2024 Olympics in Paris, she is also eyeing the Race to Costa Del Sol, which has never been won by an Indian before.

Among other Indians in focus will be last year’s runner-up Amandeep Drall along with Vani Kapoor, Tvesa Malik and Neha Tripathi. One big win can bring a big change in their fortunes on the Order of Merit. Gustavsson saw that as she rose to second place with a superb win at the Lacoste Open de France, where she beat countrywoman Mia Folke (2nd) and England’s Meghan MacLaren (third), who will also be at the DLF. MacLaren has three wins, but all of them have come in Australia.

Lying 10th on the Order of Merit, Spain’s Nuria Iturrioz, one of the seven winners from this season in the field, could propel herself into thetop-3 with a win in Hero Women’s Indian Open.

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