The Punter

Hero Indian Open: Patience required at quirky venue

Andrew Johnson on the 18th at DLF Golf Club
Andrew Johnson playing the 18th hole at DLF Golf Club

After a break of three years the Hero Indian Open returns to the DP World Tour schedule and our man's here with his comprehensive preview ahead of Thursday's start...

  • New layout set to frustrate again

  • Outsiders have thrived at unpredictable venue

  • Traders set to enjoy more Sunday shenanigans


Tournament History

The Hero Indian Open was first staged back in 1964 and won by Australian golfing legend, Peter Thompson.

The tournament was the brainchild of Thompson and he went on to win it twice more, in 1966 and 1976. It became an Asian Tour event in 1970 and it was co-sanctioned with the DP World Tour for the first time in 2015.

After two years at the intricate and challenging Delhi Golf Course, the tournament moved to the Gary Player Course at the DLF Golf and Country Club in 2017 when Shiv Chawrasia made a successful title, despite the change in venues.

Matt Wallace and Stephen Gallacher won the next two editions before the pandemic caused a three-year hiatus, so this is the first edition since 2019.

Venue

The Gary Player Course, DLF Golf and Country Club, Gurgaon, India

Course Details

Par 72, 7,380 yards
Stroke index in 2019 - 73.68

The Gary Player Course only opened in 2015 and we were very much in the dark when the tournament was first staged here.

With an advertised length of in excess of 7,600 yards it looked far too long for many pros, including the defending champ, Shiv Chawrasia.

He is notoriously short off the tee, but they messed about with the yardage by using different tees, ignoring the Championship ones, and by round four it played to just a smidgen over 7000 yards.

Chawrasia cruised to a successful defence by seven strokes, leaving many of us confused and angry. How could someone averaging only 280 off the tee win on a course measuring more than 7,600 yards?

The answer was simple really. When the course doesn't measure anywhere close to that! As you can probably gauge by my tone, I still haven't got over it!

Stephen Gallacher at DLF Golf Club.jpg

The yardage, if it can be trusted at all, is set at 7,380 for this year's renewal, a yard longer than when last used, and it's a traditional par 72 layout with the standard 12 par fours, four par three and four par fives.

The course is entirely Bermuda. The fairways are narrow with some undulation and the greens are large and undulating.

This is a gimmicky track and danger seems to lurk almost everywhere.

In the first two editions, only three players played all 72 holes without making at least one double-bogey and the winner in 2019, Stephen Gallacher, made a quadruple-bogey eight at the seventh in round four.

Water is in play on seven holes in total - one, five, six, eight, nine, 16 and 18.

It's a really tough test and only seven players bettered par in tricky conditions in 2017.

The two playoff protagonists, Matt Wallace and Andrew Johnston, reached 11-under-par a year later when 15 players finished under-par, and on a benign week in 2019, as many as 25 players finished under-par but nobody got it to double-digits under.

In addition to this event, the venue hosted an invitational event last September called the Kapil Dev - Grant Thornton Invitational.

Weather Forecast

TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 7:30 UK time on Thursday

Last Five Winners

2019 - Stephen Gallacher -9 200.0199/1
2018 - Matt Wallace -11 (Playoff) 85.084/1
2017 - Shiv Chawrasia -10 90.089/1
2016 - Shiv Chawrasia -15 40.039/1
2015 - Anirban Lahiri -7 (Playoff) 8.07/1

What Will it Take to Win the Hero Indian Open?

Having expected length to be the key before we ever saw the course, that really hasn't been the case in any of the first three editions at the venue. Here are the key stats for the top-five and ties in the three editions of the event staged at the Gary Player Course.

2017
SSP Chawrasia -10 - DD: 67, DA: 12, GIR: 31, Scr: 1, PA: 7
Gavin Green -3 - DD: 60, DA: 28, GIR: 31, Scr: 45, PA: 1
Scott Jamieson -2 - DD: 16, DA: 7, GIR: 3, Scr: 55, PA: 5
Matteo Manassero -2 - DD: 58, DA: 12, GIR: 10, Scr: 7, PA: 43
Rafa Cabrera-Bello -1 - DD: 21, DA: 41, GIR: 4, Scr: 57, PA: 23
Anirban Lahiri -1 - DD: 11, DA: 49, GIR: 20, Scr: 54, PA: 8
Carlos Pigem -1 - DD: 26, DA: 35, GIR: 1, Scr: 44, PA: 13

2018
Matt Wallace -11 - DD: 16, DA: 8, GIR: 20, Scr: 5, PA: 5: 1
Andrew Johnson -11 - DD: 15, DA: 24, GIR: 2, Scr: 1, PA: 4
Sihwan Kim -8 - DD: 63, DA: 8, GIR: 5, Scr: 2, PA: 33
Pablo Larrazabal -7 - DD: 9, DA: 45, GIR: 17, Scr: 28, PA: 32
Matthias Schwab -7 - DD: 11, DA: 8, GIR: 1, Scr: 25, PA: 13

2019
Stephen Gallacher -9 - DD: 33 DA: 49, GIR: 17, Scr: 43, PA: 1
Masahiro Kawamura -8 - DD: 11, DA: 59, GIR: 28, Scr: 5, PA: 20
Jorge Campillo -7 - DD: 14, DA: 10, GIR: 17, Scr: 5, PA: 24
Christiaan Bezuidenhout -6 - DD: 21, DA: 49, GIR: 17, Scr: 17, PA: 42
Julian Suri -6 - DD: 2, DA: 49, GIR: 25, Scr: 34, PA: 30

Nothing really sticks out statistically. Scrambling and Greens In Regulation were the key stats in 2017 and 2018 but a hot putter was the key to Gallacher's victory in 2019.

Is There an Angle In?

Eddie Pepperell, who was tied for the lead at halfway in 2017, described the course as designed by Satan! Going on to say. "That's the most stressful three-under-par I think I've ever shot.

Not because I played badly. I played really, really well. Literally every shot, something can go wrong. It's going to be a long week mentally more than anything.

It's quite a walk and mentally it will be very draining to stay up there, if you're up there the whole week in contention. You've really got to take some pressure off yourself."

And the 2018 winner, Matt Wallace, had this to say. "Every hole is a double-bogey waiting to happen."

Patience and a really good temperament are going to be the keys to success this week.

Anyone getting remotely frustrated with the course could soon find themselves out of contention and an ability to ride the bad breaks and remain on an even keel will be crucial.

The first two course winners are multiple event winners, and the 2019 edition was won by a veteran. And the 2018 runner-up, Andrew 'Beef' Johnston, is one of the most laid-back characters you're ever likely to encounter on a golf course.

Is There an Identikit Winner?

Although the 2018 playoff was played out between two Englishman, and a Scotsman won here in 2019, the home contingent has dominated this event over the years and an Indian has won 12 of the last 28 renewals.

All three course winners were matched at a triple-figure price before the off so it's been a great event for outsiders since the switch in venues.

Course Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four


2019 - Stephen Gallacher solo 4th - trailing by three 20.019/1
2018 - Matt Wallace -tied for the lead 6.05/1
2017 - Shiv Chawrasia - leading by two 1.84/5

In-Play Tactics

This quirky track is perfect for trading in-running.

Chawrasia coasted to victory in 2017 with his inexperienced closest challengers wilting on Sunday so it was a very straightforward finish but we witnessed all sorts of drama in the next editions...

SSP Chawrasia (720).JPG

Matt Wallace, who was an 80.079/1 chance before the off, drifted to 270.0269/1 in-running, but he looked as though he'd taken control of the tournament going into the back-nine on Sunday and he was matched at a low of 1.182/11 but everything changed in the space of a couple of minutes.

Wallace hit a poor tee-shot into the rough on the par three 16th and an even worse recovery shot that flew the green and found a nasty spot in the greenside bunker, just as Andrew Johnston birdied the equally tough 17th when trailing by two.

Wallace was a long odds-on shot to make a double-bogey on 16 so with the tough 17th still to play, it looked like Johnston would play the par five 18th with at least a one-shot lead and the market reacted.

Johnston was matched at a low of 1.011/100 for more than £5k! That was a nasty case of fat fingers by someone, but he was also matched for plenty at around the 1.21/5 mark - which didn't look ridiculously short given the situation.

ANDREW JOHNSTON 2021 DO 1.jpg

Wallace then got up-and-down brilliantly at 16 for bogey and Johnston, presumably playing the percentages when he knew he was tied, turned down the chance to go for the green with his second shot on 18 after a brilliant drive. Wallace then parred both 17 and 18 and the event went in to extra time.

The first two home weren't the only two to trade at odds-on though - Emiliano Grillo, who eventually finished sixth, traded at 1.695/7 on Friday morning!

That was absurd given how tough the venue is and given danger lurks all over this beast of a course and we witnessed all sorts of drama in 2019 too.

The eventual winner, Gallacher, who had been tied for the lead with Julian Suri after round one, looked like he'd blown his chance a few times.

A second round 74 left him with plenty of work to do (seven off the lead at halfway) and he drifted all the way out to over 200.0199/1 when he looked like his chance had gone.

He posted a quadruple-bogey eight on the seventh hole in round four having had to play five off the tee!

Suri birdied eight and nine shortly after Gallacher's gaff and the American was matched at just 1.162/13 as he looked to be assuming command.

However. long-odds-on players got their fingers burnt when Suri made a quad of his own on the ultra-tough 14th and that wasn't the end of the market carnage!

Jose Campillo looked like he was going to benefit from sorry Suri's slip-up but he failed to birdie the par five 18th after a great drive and moments after he'd posted an eight-under-par tournament total, and been matched at just 1.21/5, his score was changed from a six-under-par 66 to a five-under-par 67!

Japan's Masahiro Kawamura, who hit a low of 2.166/5, salvaged a par at the last having driven out of bounds to finish one in front of Campillo but Gallacher rallied superbly to win by a stroke with birdies at three of the last four holes.

It's not at all uncommon to see at least two players trade at odds-on on the DP World Tour and we could very easily see numerous players trade low and get beat this time around too.

Market Leaders

The likes of Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler have no issue with winning back-to-back events but it's a big ask for mere mortals and that's the only reason last week's Thailand Classic victor, Thorbjorn Olesen, is trading at around 12/1 in what's a fairly weak field.

The Dane was extremely impressive in Thailand last week and the worst he ranked in any traditional statistic category was 25th for Driving Accuracy.

Olesen wins Thailand Classic.jpg

Olesen ranked fourth for Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green, having ranked sixth for that stat when finishing fourth in his penultimate start, and he ranked seventh for Strokes Gained Putting.

Although he's never won back-to-back, he's held his form nicely in the past and he's a fair price.

Nicolai Hojgaard will be frustrated with his final round last week, having sat second with a round to go, and his propensity to hit a wild tee-shot or two may get him in to trouble here so he looks opposable and the third favourite, Robert Macintyre, has been under a bit of a cloud for some time with 20th in the Abu Dhabi Championship his best result in almost four months.

The talented Scot missed the cut at the Singapore Classic two weeks ago and he was a disappointing 57th last week in Thailand.

Selections:

I've had a small bet on the favourite, Olesen, and I've also backed one of Matt Cooper's each-way fancies, Shubhankar Sharma.

Matt makes a great case for the Indian and with in-and-out form figures reading 52-2-44-7-MC-12-MC, we look set for a going week for the home hero.

Selections:

Thorbjorn Olesen @ 13.5

Shubhankar Sharma @ 34.033/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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