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Top names to tee off at World Challenge

Published : Dec 3, 2015, 6:18 am IST
Updated : Dec 3, 2015, 6:18 am IST

Eighteen of the world’s best golfers will line up on the 7,267-yard, par-17 Albany course near here to contest the 17th edition of the $3.5 million Hero World Challenge, an invitational tournament pla

Anirban Lahiri
 Anirban Lahiri

Eighteen of the world’s best golfers will line up on the 7,267-yard, par-17 Albany course near here to contest the 17th edition of the $3.5 million Hero World Challenge, an invitational tournament played under the aegis of the Tiger Woods Foundation, but the 79-time Tour winner himself will be missing from the field.

In the fray at this windy, dune-dominated course that winds through a series of switchbacks and around a central lake alongside the likes of world number one Jordan Spieth. Major winners Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson, Justin Rose and Adam Scott will be competing along with Anirban Lahiri, and the Bengaluru-based golfer is looking forward to the challenge.

“I’ve always believed that I can compete with the best players in the world. And it’s nice to see how my game has progressed, how my belief has progressed and it’s great to be here,” Lahiri said, alongside Woods and title sponsor Pawan Munjal of Hero MotoCorp.

Heading into its 20th year, the Challenge will be played outside of the United States for the first time and has drawn possibly its most competitive field. Said Woods, “To have the field that we have, it’s by far the best we’ve ever had.

“Jordan and Adam (Scott) have both come from Australia to come play. I know they’ve had a busy offseason and playing. Adam’s just basically coming here for the week and going right back home, so his commitment to this event and to this project here has been phenomenal.

“So to have these types of relationships, these types of players coming here and supporting what we’re trying to do for kids, not just domestically but eventually globally, it’s absolutely fantastic.”

Added Munjal, “I remember last year Jordan had flown in halfway across the world after winning the Australian Open there and then he lifted the trophy in Orlando. I understand he’s done the same this year, other than not winning in Australia, but he’s flown in again.

“It’s a little different from last year. We have now Anirban from India. For him, it’s the first time playing the Hero World Challenge. I feel very proud to have an Indian pro as part of the top 18 pros playing the Hero World Challenge.”

If the weather holds, it promises to be a keen contest. Last year, Spieth was almost untouchable, leading from start to finish before walking away with the $1 million winner’s cheque with a massive 26-under par score, 10 shots clear of Henrik Stenson.

The Swede is missing this year but that takes nothing away from the quality of the field and 41st ranked Lahiri knows it will be a stiff test. “I’ve had a highlight-filled year. But just being here at such a great event amongst the best players in the world, these are the kind of events and fields that you want to play against every week and I’m really excited.”

Another feature this year is the number of young guns in the field with as many as seven of the 18 invitees in their twenties including Spieth, Patrick Reed, Jimmy Walker, Brooks Kopeka, J.B. Holmes and Lahiri. Joining Anirban in another first will be Hideki Matsuyama, the first from Japan at this event.

And the Indian wants to make playing the Challenge a regular feature. “I think it was last year I remember meeting Tiger in February when he came to India for a day. One of his friends, who’s also a dear friend of mine, Arjun (Atwal), was the first person to say that you’re one of the few guys whose game I think is ready for America.

“Did I think I would be here Probably not, but it’s obviously been there at the back of my mind, Hopefully I can be a part of this great event many times in the future.”