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New Delhi: Local favourite Shiv Kapur is counting on home comfort to drive him to a first victory at the US$1.25 million Hero Honda Indian Open which starts on Thursday.


The Indian star is relishing a rare appearance in what he described as his “fifth Major” on his home course at the Delhi Golf Club after missing the Open in the last three years.


His title aspirations will be put to a severe test as a top field of Asian Tour stars including countryman Jyoti Randhawa, a four-time winner at the fabled venue, history-maker Arjun Atwal, title holder C. Muniyappa, Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant, Sweden’s Daniel Chopra and Ryder Cup stalwart Paul McGinley of Ireland will also chase for honours.


“To play at home is always awesome. To get to sleep in your own bed is magic,” said Kapur, Asia’s Rookie of the Year in 2005. “This year, the dates were perfect and there’s no stress of (fighting for) any card anywhere.


“It’s nice to come in relaxed and looking to try and win. I’ve never won a professional event here. I’ve finished second a few times, second here in the SAIL Open earlier this year. So it’ll be nice to win in front of the home crowds,” added Kapur, who tied for eighth in the 2005 edition.


The 28-year-old is feeling upbeat of his Open chances, saying his game was on the right track after he hooked up with a new swing coach recently. “As a kid, winning the Indian Open was on my list of tournaments to win. It would be really special if I can win it at my own club. I’ll have to try to post some good numbers in the first two days and think about it come Sunday,” he said.


“I obviously know the golf course well. Being on home greens, it will be a big advantage. I know the lines. If I can putt well, that seems to be the only thing that has been holding me back.”


Muniyappa completed a rags-to-riches victory when he triumphed in the Hero Honda Indian Open last year but his defence could be derailed by a back injury he picked up two weeks ago in Hong Kong.


“There is still pain. In yesterday’s pro-am, I was hitting only half shots,” said the 33-year-old. “I was thinking of withdrawing but as the defending champion, I ought to play. I will show up tomorrow.”


McGinley, who holed the winning putt for Europe in the 2002 Ryder Cup, is looking forward to his debut in the Hero Honda Indian Open, which is the joint richest full field event on the Asian Tour.


After missing the first five months of the year through injury, the Irishman is keen to end his season on a high. “The course is one of the best we’ve ever played. I love old fashioned courses. It suits my game and I wish we could play on these sort of courses every week unlike the modern courses which has water all over the place and close to 8,000 yards long!” he said.


“You have to hit everything from a five iron to driver off the tee, it has a great variety of holes. I’m looking forward to playing well.”


Chopra, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, made a late dash from the United States to get to New Delhi, arriving only at 4am on Wednesday. After losing his card in America, the Swede with Indian heritage plans to salvage his season with a victory.


“I’m keeping my expectations as low as possible but my excitement level is very high as I started working with a new coach Mitchell Spearman three weeks ago and he’s shown me stuff in my golf swing that has taken me by complete surprise. Within a couple of weeks, it has transformed the way I have hit the ball,” said Chopra. 


“My goal is to win, that’s why I came here. Only a win will salvage my season and if I look back in five years time, I would say 2010 was a successful year, golfing wise. Coming second, I wouldn’t be able to say that.”


Asian Tour

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