All eyes on AditiNovember 10, 2017
When Aditi Ashok tees off on Friday, the 19-year old would be aware of the pressure of expectations she would be carrying as the defending champion at the Hero Women’s Indian Open.
As the first and only Indian winner of the marquee golf tournament in the country, Aditi has been in good form since turning professional last year. With three titles on the Ladies European Tour, eight solo or tied top-10 finishes and a full card on the LPGA for the upcoming season, Aditi has been going where no Indian women golfer has gone before.
But the maturity of being on tour for almost two years is evident in her caution when asked if she was the favourite to win a second time around at the DLF Golf and Country Club. “Not really. I don’t think of being a defending champion because that only adds pressure. I prefer taking things day by day, week by week. It is not an easy course and consistency will be important,” Ashok said.
The fact that she has been paired with Carlota Ciganda in the first two rounds — the World No. 20 Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the 114-player field and the highest-ranked player to come for the tournament — would only make the contest interesting. Ciganda is still searching for her maiden title this year but has come close too often to be ignored, with seven top-10 finishes on the LPGA and three on the LET.
The other big challenge would come from last year’s runner-up Belen Mozo and American Beth Allen with seven of the top-10 finishers from last year back in the hunt. Among the Indian challengers would be Vani Kapoor and Gaurika Bishnoi, for both of whom this is the home course. Not that it has given them any undue advantage over the years.
While Vani has been the most consistent on the 2017 WGAI tour, winning four of the 14 legs across the country including the last one at the same venue, Gaurika leads the Order of Merit.
As for the venue itself, the Gary Player-designed Black Knight course remains challenging, especially on the tricky 16th and 17th holes with their high-wall bunkers and sloping fairways. The players were unanimous in their assessment that it would take a lot more in terms of strategy to stay the course.
“You need to pick and choose which holes you can attack and where to play conservatively. It is easy to lose the ball in the rough or the bushes if you are not careful. It won’t be easy,” they averred.