PANCHKULA: Former Asian Tour winners Rashid Khan, Khalin Joshi and Ajeetesh Sandhu will lead a strong field this week at the TATA Steel PGTI Players Championship
, which will restart the domestic season on Wednesday following the eight-month break due to the COVID-19 pandemic
The Rs 30 lakh event, the first to be staged since lockdown was imposed in March to contain the spread of COVID-19, will be played across two venues — Panchkula Golf Club (in Haryana) and Chandigarh Golf Club
The tournament will be the fourth event of the 2020-21 PGTI season and will feature top Indian professionals such as Udayan Mane, Ajeetesh, Chikkarangappa and Aadil Bedi, to name a few.
With the resumption of events on the PGTI calendar
, the race for berths at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics also starts as the events offer valuable Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points.
The top two Indians in the list will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics on the revised cut-off date of June 21, 2021.
Rashid is currently the highest-ranked Indian in the world at 252, followed by Udayan at 290 while Shubhankar Sharma
is third at 348.
“It feels great to be getting back to competitive golf after such a long break. I practised hard and kept myself match-ready through this time. I’m focused on my next big goal which is qualifying for the Olympics,” two-time Asian Tour winner Rashid said in a release.
The format for the event is as follows: One half of the field will play their first round at Panchkula while the other half will play their first round at Chandigarh.
In round two, both the halves of the field will switch venues. The third and fourth rounds will only be played at Panchkula.
The PGTI Order of Merit race also resumes this week. Interestingly, youngsters dominate the rankings with 29-year-old Udayan leading with season’s earnings of Rs 14,66,500.
The next four on the rankings — Veer Ahlawat, Viraj Madappa
, Aman Raj
and Aadil Bedi — are all 25 years and below in age. Aadil won the last PGTI event held in March this year after a record six-hole playoff victory against Udayan.
“I had good momentum at the start of the year, having won three events on the trot on the PGTI. So I was looking forward to the rest of the season. But even after the break in the season, I continued to work on my game and the processes,” said Udayan, who has been working on his fitness.
The Chandigarh duo of Ajeetesh and Aadil will be leading the local challenge.
“It was tough to keep yourself motivated during the long phase away from the game,” said Ajeetesh, who won the 2017 Yeangder Tournament Players Championship in Taipei.
“I have good memories from my win in Chandigarh last year so that works in my favour. Playing across two courses will be a good test of skill levels. As Panchkula Golf Club is playing hard and fast and Chandigarh Golf Club is playing soft, a variety of shots will be needed in these varying conditions.”
The event will be held under strict COVID-19 regulations and guidelines formulated by PGTI to ensure a safe and healthy environment during the tournaments.