Kolkata: The trio of S.S.P. Chawrasia, Shankar Das and Rahil Gangjee will spearhead a strong local challenge at their home course, the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC), during PGTI’s season-ending Rs.1.5 crore McLeod Russel Tour Championship that begins on Thursday.
While Chawrasia and Das are both former champions, Gangjee is hard to write off on his home turf.
Chawrasia, the champion at the inaugural edition in 2012, has enjoyed a fruitful season on the Asian Tour, having finished fourth in the merit list. However, the last few weeks have been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride for him.
First, he narrowly missed qualifying for his first-ever Major, the 2016 British Open, as he missed the mark by one position at the Thailand Golf Championship. This was however followed by the happy news of his inclusion in Team Asia for the big-ticket EurAsia Cup next year.
“The year’s been a good one for me as I came close to matching my best-ever ranking of number three in Asia. However, the last few weeks have been of mixed emotions. I was first disappointed to miss out on the British Open after coming so close. But then making Team Asia for the EurAsia Cup helped me get over the setback quickly.
“I now want to end the year with a flourish on my home turf since I’m focused and playing well. I changed my driver one month back and that has helped my game. I see Chikkarangappa, Mukesh and Khalin as some of the top contenders this week. Chikka is a very aggressive player and could do well here,” said Chawrasia, a winner of three international titles.
Defending champion Shankar Das sent out a strong signal to the rest of the field with his team’s triumph at the Pro-Am event on Tuesday. Shankar, fresh from his win in Assam last month, will be looking to make gains in the Rolex Ranking, as he is once again expected to perform well in his backyard.
He lies tenth in the money list with earnings of Rs.15,48,828 and trails leader Mukesh Kumar by over Rs.19 lakh. Since the winner is set to take home a handsome cheque of Rs.22,50,000, Shankar still has an outside chance in the Rolex Player of the Year race depending on how the leaders perform.
Shankar said: “It wasn’t a great year for me till I won in Digboi last month. I regained my putting form and confidence with the victory. At the moment I’m striking it well with the driver and the irons. The one area I need to improve on is my wedge-play.
“There’s a premium on hitting the fairways here since it’s not easy to come back if you find the rough. I’ll look to draw inspiration from my win last year.”
Gangjee, who safely retained his Asian Tour card with a 44th place on the Order of Merit, is also eager to make a mark in front of his home crowd.
“The first half of the year was an average one for me but I managed to capitalize on some of the big tournaments at the back end of the season. I’ve won here at RCGC at both the professional and amateur level. I would love to win this week not only because of the prize purse but also to have the satisfaction of winning in front of my friends and family.
“My putting has been decent but I need to drive better this week. One has to get it in play here and once you do that the golf course becomes easier. If you put it in the rough and trees it’s going to be a very difficult week. The weather would also be a factor. If it stays overcast and cold like today, it would make the course play longer,” said Gangjee, a winner on the Asian Tour.
Besides Chawrasia, Das and Gangjee, the other three Kolkata-based professionals in the field, Feroz Ali Mollah, Mohammad Sanju and Divyanshu Bajaj, would also look to take advantage of their local knowledge to make an impact at PGTI’s blue-riband event.