In some ways, it didn’t feel like an Indian Open.
The familiar setting over the last few years, even before it became a European Tour event, has been generally at Delhi Golf Club. But we went from one of the oldest courses in the India in the middle of town to one of the newest on the outskirts of Delhi.
It did look stunning on television and in some ways, it shows India in a different light. Designed by Gary Player, they landscaped thousands of rocks and moved tonnes of earth to build “the hardest course in India”.
If the course was played off all the back tees, it stretches over 7600 yards. The course the players played over the final round measured just a little over 7000 yards. And given the scoring, it’s a good job they were playing off some forward tees. I am not sure I have ever been to a tournament before where there have been scores from every number from one to twelve! I have never seen so many scores of seven or more dotted across our scoreboard monitors. The general feeling from the players I spoke to about the course, is that it could be a good design. Take away some of the severe long grass, flatten out the greens and you could have a good test. How can the final group on Saturday playing nine holes in over three hours be good for the game? Too much waiting around, too many lost balls.
The final two holes in the way the champion closed it out summed it up really. A 2nd shot to 17 that bounced off one of the 15 thousand stacked rocks on the hole and onto the green, followed by an 18th hole where even the man himself asked on twitter if we had a laugh about it? 3 wood, wedge, 8 iron, wedge!
But take nothing away from that man – SSP Chawrasia. He found a game-plan, stuck to it and executed it to perfection. Hit it straight off the tee and hole some putts. As a television broadcast, it lacked the drama you want from a final round but that was down to the Indian’s superb play. Superb with his wedges, solid with the putter, so consistent off the tee. His scrambling percentages were head and shoulders above the field average on greens with severe slopes. It took him 17 years to win the Indian Open with 4 runner up finishes along the way and now he’s won two in a row. His story is well told but how can you not be happy for him. I was fortunate to have some dinner with him on Friday night and he really is a humble but extremely determined man. In his first event as a professional, he had to borrow some clubs so he could play. It’s been a long journey of perseverance and self-belief. Incredibly all four of his European Tour wins have come in Delhi. Can he now translate the form to Europe and elsewhere? He’s a far different and better player to one that first came to Europe after his 1st win in 2008. He’s more used to the cold, the food and the language that Europe that throws at him. On the Asian Tour, last year he won outside of India for the first time, winning an event in Manila. That will show him it can be done. There will be certain golf courses that will be too long for him but on the right layout, he will be a danger anywhere in the world.