Players at the preview press conference, from left to right: Caroline Hedwall, Vani Kapoor, Tvesa Malik, Julia Engstrom, Sarah Kemp and Camille Chevalier.
Second-year Ladies European Tour member Vani Kapoor, who was the best Indian at tied-6th in the 2017 Hero Women’s Indian Open, will spearhead the home challenge at DLF Golf and Country Club this week.
India’s top star, 24, who represents the club, said, “I have been preparing hard, though I was hit by tendinitis few days back, but I am hoping to get over that. This is my home course and I know it well, but as they say in golf, every shot is a new one and you never play the same shot again. Last year has been one of great learning.”
Vani secured her LET card with her top-10 finish last year and is looking for a similar performance, although she doesn’t wish to pile any unnecessary pressure on herself. “I’m not thinking about winning. I think the good thing about golf is that you all start from scratch and it’s about putting four good rounds together. I’m not going to put any pressure on myself, I just want to do my best,” added Vani, who has won 28 titles on the WGAI, India’s domestic tour.
Tvesa Malik, 22, is also seen as a big hope for the future and currently leads the WGAI order of merit after three victories in 2018. She is playing her first HWIO as a pro, but has been performing very well on the domestic Tour.
The local player said: “It has been a great season and I have been improving a lot and I have been really looking forward to this event for a long time. I have played here often and know the course well and it is very challenging. As for my plans, I plan to go to the LET Q-School this year and have picked Vani’s brains on this a lot. I think all of us Indians have.”
Course knowledge will play a role, with five players who finished in the top 10 in last year’s Indian Open vying for the title.
Defending champion Camille Chevalier is hoping her turn her season around at the venue which brought her great joy a year ago at the Gary Player course at the Hero Women’s Indian Open.
The 25-year-old French golfer, who went on to become the Rookie of the year after her maiden title back to challenge for the trophy, along with the 2011 Hero Women’s Indian Open winner, Caroline Hedwall; the 2016 LET Order of Merit winner, Beth Allen, and the 2018 Australian Ladies Classic winner Celine Boutier, besides a host of other players such as Sarah Kemp, who was third last year and is looking for her first LET title.
If Hedwall wins, she would become the first player to complete a double on both Arnold Palmer and Gary Player courses at the DLF. She would also become the second to win the title multiple times after Thailand’s Phatlum Pornanong won three times, in 2008, 2009 and 2012, on the Arnold Palmer Course at DLF.
Hedwall said: “When I won (in 2011), the course was a different one (Arnold Palmer course). I was here two years ago and it is amazing the course is looking great and is challenging, too. In 2011, I had my mother on the bag, but she is not here this time and my sister, Jacqueline, (who also played college golf) is on the bag. I am showing here around and we love India.”
This season Hedwall has been in fine form and it suggests she is all set to make a strong bid for the title once again. On the LET this year, she has missed just one cut in seven starts and finished in the top-10 four times, including a win in France, where she came from seven strokes behind the overnight leader with a final round of 62, nine-under-par, when playing without a caddie.
Another strong challenger could be the leading rookie this season, Julia Engstrom, who is still waiting for her clubs to arrive. “I have been playing with borrowed clubs,” she said, but smiled when told that in 2010, Laura Davies’ clubs came just the night before the tournament and went on to win the title.
The 2018 Hero Women’s Indian Open gets under way at 6.45am local time on Thursday and Ursula Wikstrom will hit the first tee shot. Fans around the world can follow all four rounds live on television and via live streaming on the LET website and Facebook.