India’s Shiv Kapur has hailed the growth of golf in his country as the European Tour visits for the fourth time.
The Avantha Masters at the DLF Golf and Country Club, which starts on Thursday, is jointly sanctioned by the European Tour, the Professional Golf Tour of India and the Asian Tour.
2011 AVANTHA MASTERS
The second edition of the Avantha Masters is co-sanctioned by the European Tour, Asian Tour and Professional Golf Tour of India.
Kapur and fellow Indian players such as Jeev Milkha Singh and SSP Chowrasia will all be aiming for home success. But the fact the tournament is there at all most pleases 28-year-old Kapur.
"Seven or eight years ago when I was thinking about turning professional I was still in college and my parents didn't think it was a good career move because the local tour in India was so small,” he said. "But now the local tour has grown and you get tournaments like this week's Avantha Masters.
"The kids get really excited about coming out and seeing us play for such big money. It is a great boost for golf and the juniors who strive to be where we are,” he noted. "Golf has grown a lot and it is the fastest growing sport in the country. In the next five years, there are more than 50 or 60 new golf courses due to open."
The first European Tour co-sanctioned event in India in 2008 had a dream ending as Chowrasia, the greenkeeper's son, took victory.
"Having the Tour in India has been good for the local players to rub shoulders with the best players," added Kapur. "It is a great opportunity for them. The 20 or so local players get to play in a European Tour field and play for 1.8 million euros.
"SSP is a great example -- he won the first co-sanctioned event here in India and he got a three-year exemption on the European Tour,” he said. "For the India players and some of the Asian Tour players, it is a great stepping stone to build on."
Another player desperately hoping for a good week is Australian Andrew Dodt, who has returned to New Delhi to defend his title. The 25-year-old held off England's Richard Finch courtesy of a brilliant bunker shot at the last 12 months ago but has struggled to rediscover that form since.
"I just need one good round to kickstart things and hopefully it'll happen this week,” said Dodt. "The Avantha Masters and India have a special place in my heart because it got me to where I am today and changed my life dramatically. I have never defended a tournament before and I'm glad that I'm able to do that for the first time this year."
Former Ryder Cup players David Howell, Soren Hansen and Paul McGinley will also be in action, with the former hoping to build on his fifth place in Qatar two weeks ago.
Englishman Howell has struggled for form and fitness since finishing third in the Order of Merit in 2006, but he is optimistic his game is finally improving.
"I'm looking forward to the week. I feel that I have really turned a corner recently in terms of the confidence I have in my own game, so I am coming in with a fair bit of optimism,” said Howell. "It's good to be back in India and we have a great golf course to play on this week."