Luiten, once destined for Arizona, heads to India for Avantha Masters

joost luiten
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Joost Luiten of the Netherlands will face off against major winners John Daly and Todd Hamilton this week in India.
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

Published: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 | 12:26 p.m.

NEW DELHI, India -- The European Tour has moved on from Dubai to India this week -- and, even though he would like to have been heading to America instead, Dutchman Joost Luiten has made the trip, too.

Two weeks ago, the 26-year-old was 64th in the world and in position to qualify for his World Golf Championships debut at next week's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona. But finishes of 42nd in Abu Dhabi and then 33rd at last week's Dubai Desert Classic have dropped Luiten, who won the Johor Open in Malaysia last November, to 69th and made him only fourth alternate for Dove Mountain.

He is part of a line-up at the Avantha Masters that includes former British Open champions John Daly and Todd Hamilton, Ryder Cup hero Paul McGinley and German Marcel Siem, who shared the lead with Lee Westwood for a while in Dubai on Sunday before dropping back to fourth.

The defending champion is local hero SSP Chowrasia, who also won the title in 2008.

"I've been practicing hard and I'm feeling really good," he said. "I've done a bit of work on my swing over the off-season and it's paying off. I'm feeling very confident about my game.

"Last year was great for Indian golf and Indian players," he added. "Golf in India is growing -- cricket is No. 1, but golf is the next fastest growing sport and I hope my victory inspires more people to play."

England's Robert Coles returns to the course with memories of what might have been last February. He needed a birdie on the par-5 closing hole to win, but from the edge of the green in two, he thinned his chip 20 feet past and three-putted for a bogey.

It was the closest the 39-year-old has come in a European Tour career that goes back to 1995. Indeed, in all that time, he has had only one other top-three finish.