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Mary Kom settles for bronze at World Championships

ULAN-UDE, Oct 12: Boxer Mary Kom bowed out of World Championships 2019 after losing her 51kg semifinal bout against Turkey’s European Champion Busenaz Cakiroglu via a split verdict 1:4 at Ulan-Ude, in Russia, on Saturday. This is the eight Worlds medal for the Indian pugilist, as she adds a bronze medal to her previous tally of six gold and a silver.

Both the boxers seemed hesitant to make the first move in the opening round but Mary Kom had the edge in counter-attacks as Cakiroglu struggled to make her height advantage count.

India have appealed the decision as disappointed Mary Kom took to Twitter to question the decision. Tagging Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, Mary Kom wrote: “How and why. Let the world know how much right and wrong the decision is...”

The second round followed a similar pattern as far as the tactics went but Cakiroglu seemed the sharper of the two. In the final three minutes, both the boxers upped the ante but Cakiroglu became the dominant aggressor eventually.

The Manipuri, in terms of number of medals won, has become numero uno across both the men’s and women’s world championships. Cuban icon Felix Savon is the most successful in the men’s event with seven medals -- six gold and a silver.

The Six-time champion Mary Kom had beaten Colombia’s Valencia Victoria in her quarterfinal bout to secure her maiden world medal in the 51kg category, in which she won an Olympic medal back in 2012.

After reaching the semis, she spoke about her desire to go for gold in the 51kg category, in which she will be competing at Tokyo Olympics next year. “I know a lot is expected of me, I would give my all, the job is only half done. I hope to get a gold,” she had said.

After reaching the semis, she spoke about her desire to go for gold in the 51kg category, in which she will be competing at Tokyo Olympics next year.

Later in the day, World Championship debutant Manju Rani will face Thailand’s Raksat Chuthamat in 48 kg semifinal. It will be followed by Jamuna Boro’s 54 kg semifinal bout against Taiwan’s Hsiao-Wen Huang. In India’s final bout of the day, Lovlina Borgohain will face off against China’s Liu Yang in 69 kg semifinal.

Wolf clinches Hero Women’s Indian Open; amateur Anika Varma emerges best Indian in fifth place

By Deepak Arora

GURUGRAM, Oct 6: Christine Wolf on Sunday clinched the Hero Women’s Indian Open for her maiden Ladies European Tour title. The HWIO and the DLF Golf and Country Club is becoming a happy hunting ground for first-time winners. Following Welsh veteran Becky Morgan’s breakthrough win after 19 long years on the Ladies European Tour in 2018, it was the 30-year-old Austrian Wolf’s turn as she grabbed her first title after six years on the Tour.

Wolf received the trophy from Chairman Hero MotoCorp, Dr. Pawan Munjal. She showed no nervousness on the final day as she delivered a commanding bogey-free final round of 69 to total 11-under 277 and win with rounds of 73, 68, 67 and 69. She finished three shots ahead of Marianne Skarpnord (70 and eight-under) and four ahead of MacLaren (72 and seven-under). Whitney Hillier, the halfway co-leader, shot 72 and was sole fourth at six-under.

Indians had a lot to cheer for as well, with a strong display from top amateur Anika Varma, who finished in fifth place with a 3-under par aggregate of 285 and a final day card of two-under 70.

The 15-year-old Anika was one shot ahead of best-placed home professional Tvesa Malik, who was tied sixth at one-under 287. A year ago, Tvesa had finished as the best- home golfer at tied 13th alongside Gaurika Bishnoi, so Sunday’s result was significant progress for the LET rookie as well.

Anika said, “I was pretty nervous in the beginning but as soon as I hit my first tee shot I felt fine. I had a good group (with Sweden’s Emma Nilsson and Manon De Roey of Belgium) today and I enjoyed playing with them. That helped me play well too."

“I was pretty consistent today, just had one double (bogey) on the 16th. Before that, I was doing pretty good and I didn’t miss a single regulation before the 16th hole, I think only that one and the 18th, which was the highlight of my day.”

Added Tvesa, “I think it was a little bit more of a struggle but I am happy with my overall performance for the week. I think I am happy with my game and the way I handled the pressure on the course, so I’m quite pleased overall."

“I missed a lot of putts so that wasn’t a great part of my game. On the 18th hole, I definitely wasn’t expecting that to happen at all (chip-in from off the green) so I’m glad I could make a birdie from there."

A year ago in 2018, Wolf fumbled twice. First on the third day while being well ahead and on the final day, when she was tied for the lead. She shot a quadruple bogey on the third day and a double bogey on the final day and finished Tied-second allowing Morgan to grab the title. This time, there was to be no such error.

Forgotten were the memories of a hole that had cost her eight shots over the week last year. As on Saturday, Wolf sent her third shot sailing on to the green and calmly two-putted for the $75,000 winner’s cheque and a maiden Tour title.

“I’m super happy obviously with this first LET win, but also that I did it here,” said a beaming Wolf. “Everyone knew of last year’s drama coming into the week here so to win by three shots was very nice. But you can’t get ahead of yourself in golf and I was obviously a little nervous.”

In fact, from Saturday itself it was evident that the Austrian would be the one to beat in the closing stages and so it turned out as Wolf picked up early momentum to gain three shots in her front nine and never let the advantage go with a clean back nine for a 3-under round of 69 and an 11-under par aggregate of 277.

Among other Indians Astha Madan (70 and 2-over 290) was Tied-19th, Vani Kapoor (75 and 3-over 291) was T-21st, Diksha Dagar (74 and 7-over 295) was Tied-32nd, Amandeep Drall (78 and 9-over 297) was T-37th, amateur Pranavi Urs (75 and 11-over 299) and Gaurika Bishnoi (77 and 11-over 299) were Tied-47th, amateur Jahnavi Bakshi (76 and 14-over 302) was Tied-57th and another amateur Seher Atwal (79 and 16-over 304) was Tied-61st.

India beat South Africa in first Test

VISHAKHAPATNAM, Oct 6: India has beaten South Africa in the first Test 203 runs. Mohammed Shami picked up a five-wicket haul as South Africa were bundled out for 191, while chasing 395 on the final day. Ravindra Jadeja picked up four wickets in the same innings while R Ashwin, who had taken seven wickets in the first innings, picked up a lone wicket of Theunis de Bruyn.

Rohit Sharma, who scored tons in both the innings, was the star for India batting, along with Mayank Agarwal, who scored a double hundred. India displayed an all-round performance and picked up easy win to take 1-0 lead in the series.

Hero Women’s Indian Open: Wolf Takes Lead On Day 3: Anika Tops Among Indians

By Deepak Arora

GURUGRAM, Oct 5: Christine Wolf may well have buried the demons of the past with a birdie on the 18th in the third round to take sole possession of the lead after 54 holes in the Hero Women’s Indian Open on Saturday. Wolf has never won on the Ladies European Tour, though she came within touching distance of it a year ago at this very event before falling foul at the 18th.

The relief was there for all to see as her third shot sailed over the dangerous lake and landed five feet from the flag for a birdie that has taken her five visits to register at the closing hole.

It was Wolf’s first birdie at the 18th in five starts on this course. Last year her scores at the 18th were a nightmare with DB-Par-Quadruple-DB (7-5-9-7).That single Par-5 hole cost her eight shots and she ended second by two as Becky Morgan won the trophy.

Wolf, whose scores at the 18th this year have been Par-Par-Birdie, carded 67, her best ever at the Gary Player course. She is now eight-under and one shot clear of Meghan MacLaren (69), whose only previous visit to the event produced a Tied-ninth finish in 2017. Another shot behind at seven-under 209 was Marianne Skarpnord (71), the highest-ranked player from the LET Order of Merit in this field.

For India, amateur Anika Varma, just 15, gave the fans a lot to cheer for with a stunning 67, that equalled Johanna Gustavsson’s card and later leader Wolf also shot the same. Anika, who had six birdies, five of them on the front nine, against one bogey on 17th, was Tied-ninth as was Tvesa Malik, who followed her even par 72-72 with a 71 to get to one-under 215. Vani Kapoor shot even par 72 to be Tied-13th at one-over 217.

Wolf admitted she had a point to prove and said, “I love coming to India anyway. The people are super friendly, the weather is great and the course is amazing and then I think also, because of what happened last year…”

She confessed it took a long time to get over that. “The caddie keeps talking about it, so it's sort of there, but I have practised a lot, especially those shots and I have been hitting my wedges really well.”

“It took me a while. I don’t know how long exactly but it just kept coming up. It did at the start of the season, not anymore,” she added.

Wolf, whose sole success has been the team title at the European Championships last year, was famously four clear after two rounds in the 2018 edition, only to lose that lead with a quadruple bogey on nine in the third. In the final round, she was again tied with leader Becky Morgan at seven-under before dropping a double on the last.

As MacLaren moved up a place from third to second, Skarpnord dropped one down to be Tied-third with second round leader, Australian Whitney Hillier(72). Linda Wessberg (76), Tied-third overnight, had a triple on 10th and a bogey on 18th, to drop to Tied-13th. Norway’s Tonje Daffinrud (68) was fifth.

Speaking of 2018, Wolf added, “It was the first time I’d really been up there for three days and then on the last day I fought back and was up there again and then I hit that same shot. It just makes you think about what you could have done differently."

She went on, “From the start of the season I was just thinking I can’t wait to be in India. I mean, Becky played really well last year, but I feel I played well on 17 holes every day. Then the 18th happened on Saturday and again Sunday."

She knows it is still not over, “There are still 18 holes to play and a lot of holes to go so in golf you can never say I deserve it. I just enjoy coming here and I guess the course suits my eye.”

This Sunday she has a chance to finally end that nightmare.

Anika Varma turned on some great play to card five-under 67. Now based in the United States, Anika (76, 72, 67) was the best ranked Indian in the field at Tied-ninth along with Tvesa Malik (72, 72, 71), at one-under par 215, seven shots behind Wolf.

Anika, till recently India’s top ranked junior and a qualifier in the US Girls Championship earlier in the year hit six birdies and looked poised to bring in a bogey-free card till she dropped a shot on the intimidating par-4 17th hole. That was her only blemish of the day as she showed great composure and calm.

“I kept hitting it very good today,” Anika said later. “I didn’t need very long putts other than the eighth hole where I needed a little over 20 feet for the conversion. Most of my approach shots were within range so I could just go for most of the putts."

“Tomorrow, I’ll just try and keep an open mind, would just try to do as well as I can and try and be happy on the course, that’s all, really.”

Tvesa said, “I left a few shots out there on the course but I made the putts when I needed them. Overall, I’m very happy with my first under-par round of the week and positive about tomorrow.”

DLF regular Vani Kapoor was tied 13th at level par 216 (74, 70,72) following a steady round, in the course of which she swapped two bogeys for as many birdies, while Amandeep Drall could not build on her momentum of Friday with a 3-over 75 that dropped her into a tie for 27th place at 3-over 219. Astha Madan was next best at 4-over 220 (73, 75, 72) with her first par round of the week.

Diksha Dagar too left shots out on the course and is now tied 36th at 5-over 221 (72, 73, 76) and Gaurika Bishnoi, the joint best Indian finisher with Tvesa last year, was T42 at 6-over 222 (73, 74, 75).

Modi calls NBA India’s debut as historic day for Indo-US relations

NEW DELHI, Oct 5: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday called the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) first-ever match in the country as an historic moment for the Indo-US relations.

The high-profile basketball league made its eagerly awaited India debut on Friday with Indiana Pacers edging past Sacramento Kings 132-131 in a thrilling contest in Mumbai.

The two teams will meet again for their second pre-season game later on Saturday.

“Yesterday was a historic day for sports in India and India-USA relations. Mumbai hosted the first ever @NBA match played in India. The game between @Pacers and @SacramentoKings was a treat for sports lovers. Congratulations to both teams for a riveting contest. #NBAIndiaGames,” Modi tweeted.

“Basketball is very popular among our youth. The @NBA matches set the stage, or rather set the court for greater linkages in sports. I hope more youngsters pursue basketball and also contribute to the Fit India Movement. #NBAIndiaGames,” he added.

Last month, speaking at the ‘Howdy Modi’ event in Houston, Texas, US president Donald Trump had mentioned his interest in NBA’s debut in India.

“Am I invited Mr Prime Minister?” Trump had asked, adding that NBA will be one of America’s best exports to India.

Rohit Sharma achieves historic first with back-to-back centuries in Vizag

VISHAKHAPATNAM, Oct 5: Rohit Sharma has been much-maligned for his inefficient display in Test matches. Even though he has achieved great heights in his limited-overs career, Rohit has never been able to stake his claim in the Indian Test side. But this was before the first Test against South Africa in Vishakhapatnam. Rohit was promoted to the openers spot by the team management and he justified their trust with a magnificent display in the Test.

After a stupendous 176 in the first innings, Rohit followed it up with another ton in the second innings. Rohit also became the first batsmen in the history of the game to score centuries in both innings while opening for the first time in Tests. Rohit has long underachieved in the longest format of the game in his career but the elevation to the opener’s slot has worked wonders for him.

This was Rohit’s fifth hundred in Tests and with this ton he became the second Indian opener to hit centuries tons in both the innings of the Test after Sunil Gavaskar. Rohit eventually got out after scoring 127 runs which included 7 sixes.

Rohit also holds the record for most sixes in a Test match in India. The stylish right-hander had hit six maximums in the first innings and then hit four more in the second to break Navjot Singh Sindhu’s record, who hit eight sixes in Lucknow Test against Sri Lanka in 1994.

Matthew Hayden, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Ajinkya Rahane take the tied third spot as all four of them hit seven sixes during their respective Test matches. Rohit now tops this illustrious list by breaking Sidhu’s 25-year-old record.

Vizag Test is Rohit’s first outing in the longest format where he has opened the innings for India and he has been a revelation. He slammed a majestic 176 to help India post in excess of 500 while in the second innings, he once again came up with the goods with the bat. Speaking at the end of opening day, Rohit revealed what worked for him in the first innings.

“I think it suits my game, just wear the pads and bat. Waiting game, when I used to bat at five or six number, I won’t say it didn’t suit my batting. Your mind is fresh, we know we have to play the new ball. You know the bowlers who are bowling with the new ball do, so the game plan is easier for you. You know you have to face the new ball and these will be the fielders. At six, the ball is reversing, field placement is different and you need to keep all those things in mind. That game of wearing the pads and going in to bat suits my game,” said Rohit.

Australian Whitney Hillier takes sole lead at Hero Women's Indian Open; Amandeep Drall is best Indian at Tied-eighth

By Deepak Arora

GURUGRAM, Oct 4: Whitney Hillier rode a roller coaster of a back nine which she rounded off with two birdies at the very end to sneak ahead of everyone into the sole lead at the end of the second round of the Hero Women’s Indian Open on Friday.

Hillier who shot five-under on the first day for a share of the lead, dropped to three-under at one stage but fought back superbly in the last seven holes to rise to the top at six-under and was one ahead of Marianne Skarpnord (68-71), who had the clubhouse lead for the most part of the day.

The first round co-leader Meghan MacLaren dropped back to shared third place alongside Linda Wessberg of Sweden at 2-under 140. Three players including Christine Wolf (73-68) were Tied-fifth at three-under 141, while another three, including India’s Amandeep Drall (72-70) were Tied-eighth at two-under 142.

Amandeep, a consistent player on the domestic circuit, who has never had a Top-10 finish in an LET event, finished her day with three birdies on the 16th, 17th and 18th which are considered the toughest stretch on the Gary Player course at DLF Golf and Country Club. She shot 70 today and is now two-under 142 and Tied-eighth. With the cut falling at seven-over, 68 players made the weekend rounds and that included 10 Indians, four of them amateurs, auguring well for Indian women’s golf.

Overnight co-leader Hillier, playing one group ahead of Amandeep, had one birdie and one bogey on the front nine but a double bogey on the 10th set her back. She roared back with four birdies in the last seven holes to take the lead.

Said Hillier on her day’s progress, “I was very calm all day. I stayed in the present and just tried to hit the best shots I could. It was actually very challenging with the wind so I had to judge that quite a lot. I hit a couple of really good shots but got punished. Had some really good putts coming in though.”

She added, “I had a few steady pars to start off with. Had one bogey then I got it back pretty quickly. And then I was 2-over after 10th. The 10th hasn't been very good to me so far but I am going to get it back on the weekend. I made a few good birdies coming in and then obviously at the 17th & 18th, was good to finish with those last two putts. So very happy with today.”

In the morning Skarpnord, who is the highest-ranked player on LET rankings in this week’s field, seemed to be in a bother as she turned in two-over on the back nine, which was her front nine. She had a triple bogey on 11th and a bogey on the 16th against birdies on 13th and 18th. She rebounded strongly on the second nine with birdies on the first, third, fourth and fifth to get to six-under before dropping a shot on sixth to finish 36 holes in five-under.

Skarpnord said, “I had an early tee time today and I was pretty sure I was awake, but obviously I was not. Had a little 7 (3-over) there on the 11th hole, not a great start to the round. But I did my best to just forget about it. I said to myself on the next tee to forget about what had just happened. If you are going to go on thinking about it for the next 16 holes, you might as well just go home.”

Tvesa Malik (72-72) and Vani Kapoor (74-70) played steadily to ensure passage past the cut and are Tied-15th. Starting from the 10th, Tvesa was one-over for the back nine, her first nine, and one-under for the front nine of the course just like the first day.

Also starting on 10th, Kapoor, sixth in 2017, was one-under for back nine and on the front stretch she had two birdies and one bogey.

The bravest Indian on the second day was Diksha Dagar (72-73), who started the day with a quadruple bogey. She hit the far right and went back to the tee and had a four-putt on the green for an eight. She fought back with three birdies on third, fourth and eighth. Again she dropped shots on 11th and 12th, only to birdie the 13th and 14th. Then she saved an improbable par on the 18th hole after hitting into the water with the first shot. Her approach shot, which became her third shot, sailed over the water and curled along and found its way into the cup from 115 yards for a par. She is one-over 145 and Tied-22nd.

Gaurika Bishnoi (73-74) was Tied-31st, while fast-rising amateur Anika Varma (76-72) and Astha Madan (73-75) were in shared 37th place at 4-over 148. Amateurs Jahnavi Bakshi (74-76) and Pranavi Urs (71-79) were Tied-51st at 6-over 150. Yet another amateur Seher Atwal (74-77), studying in the US, just made the grade at 7-over 151.

Missing out were some big names, including defending champion Becky Morgan (77-80) of Wales and pre-tournament favourite Carly Booth (81-76) of Scotland, both of who finished on 13-over par 152.

The Par-3 16th was the scene of much jubilation once again as Scotland’s Kelsey MacDonald gave herself an early birthday present with a hole-in-one at the par-3 16th using a 7-iron during the second round. She turns 29 on Saturday.

Kelsey also used the same club as Jyotsana Singh did on the first day to get the ace at the same hole.

Kelsey (76-72) was actually six-over for the tournament with three holes left when she landed the hole-in-one. It brought her to four-over and with pars on 17 and 18, she stayed there to make the cut and is T-36.

Meanwhile Jyotsana Singh (73-89) who had an ace on Thursday suffered a 16-shot swing and missed the cut.

The DLF Golf and Country Club has been a good hunting ground for Scots in recent times. Stephen Gallacher won the Hero Indian Open for men this year, and in 2017, Duncan Stewart had won a BMW M3 with an ace on the fifth hole.

Hero Women's Indian Open: MacLaren, Hillier share lead on Day 1

By Deepak Arora

GURUGRAM, Oct 3: England’s Meghan MacLaren and Whitney Hilliers of Australia shared the lead at 5-under 67 after the first day of the Hero Women’s Indian Open even as India’s Mysore-based 16-year-old amateur Pranavi Urs nailed two late birdies to climb to Tied-10th on the leaderboard late in the evening on Thursday.

Pranavi Urs, a past winner on the domestic pro tour, even while being an amateur, picked up shots on her final two holes for a one-under par card of 71 at the DLF Golf and Country Club to be the best-placed Indian on the first day but she was four shots behind the two leaders.

Norwegian Marianne Skarpnord and England’s Liz Young were tied third at four-under 68 each while Swede Linda Wessberg (69) was fifth.

Four players, including Europe’s Solheim Cup-winning captain, Catriona Matthew, were tied-sixth on 2-under 70 and another eight players shot 71s to be Tied-10th including Pranavi.

Adding to the action on the first day was Lucknow-based 19-year-old Jyotsana Singh, a late entrant, who aced the par-3 16th. She had an interesting finish – four bogeys between 13th and 18th with an ace in between on 16th for 73. She closed with two bogeys.

MacLaren said later, “It was a bit of a mixture. I made a lot of birdies and was really, really positive. Thought I left some birdies out there, did a couple of really stupid things but I can’t really complain.

“It wasn’t very nice to get up at 4 am but for the first hour you have an empty course in front of you and really pure greens so that was nice though it got bad later, really burning hot., It just kept getting stickier and stickier out there.”

Added Hillier, “I had six birdies in total. I made a bogey on the first hole that I got back very quickly, which I was very happy with. Thought I hit it really well out there, hit it close all day and gave myself lots of birdie chances, which is good.”

“The course is in great shape, much different from what it was when I was last here in 2015. It’s changed a lot since then, it’s just really impressive; a very, very beautiful golf course, one of the best in the world I would say.”

Pranavi, teeing off in the afternoon, played a steady out-bound nine to make the turn on level par 36. Though she dropped a shot early, back to back birdies in the final two holes made sure she would be the only Indian to go under par on the opening day.

Even as Pranavi carded 71 and earned the bragging rights for being the best Indian among the 22 playing here, there was Diksha Dagar and domestic tour regulars Amandeep Drall and Tvesa Malik in Tied-18th place with 72 each.

Amandeep mixed three gained shots against three bogeys in her round, finishing off with an excellent birdie on the ninth hole, her last of the day with the pin awkwardly placed on a shelf right at the back of the green.

Diksha had an even more adventurous day in the course in which she hit five birdies but squandered those gains with three bogeys and a double, while Tvesa had a more sedate round, her two birdies cancelling out two dropped shots. In each case, the final score for the day could have been a better one.

One shot behind them on 1-over par 73 and tied in 28th place were Neha Tripathi, Gaurika Bishnoi, Astha Madan and 19-year-old tour rookie Jyotsana Singh, who recorded the only hole-in-one on Thursday.

A further shot behind at 74 in shared 42nd were amateurs Seher Atwal and Jahnavi Bakshi, along with Vani Kapoor, for whom the DLF G&CC is her home course.

For defending champion Becky Morgan and 2017 winner Camille Chevalier, though, it was a day to forget. While the Frenchwoman was 3-over 75 and tied 58th, Morgan was three shots further behind on 6-over 78 and tied 80th.

Enthusiastic Home Stars Aim At Hero Women’s Indian Open 2019

By Deepak Arora

GURUGRAM, Oct 2: Marianne Skarpnord, Meghan MacLaren and Carly Booth, who have one win each and a clutch of Top-10 showings this season, are the front runners for the 13th Hero Women’s Indian Open if one goes by the Ladies European Tour’s Order of Merit. They are third, sixth and eighth respectively, but Becky Morgan, despite being currently 61st in the rankings is on a different plane.

Skarpnord, who has often been among the contenders in her past trips to India, won the Australian Ladies Classic besides four other Top-10s; MacLaren won the Worrells NSW Women’s Open and has also logged three other Top-10s. Booth broke a seven-year drought at the recent Tipsport Ladies Czech Open besides which she has four Top-10s.

The only other winner on the 2019 schedule in this field is India’s own Diksha Dagar, who grabbed the Investec Women’s South African Open, besides adding another Top-10 and three other Top-20 finishes.

The last and only time an Indian won the Hero Women’s Indian Open was Aditi Ashok in 2016. But now there is a bunch of young Indians, who could make a run on a course, which has been a host for some events on the domestic Hero Women’s Pro Golf Tour.

Dagar, a rookie who scored her maiden win in only her fourth LET start is playing her first HWIO as a professional after three previous starts as an amateur.

Last year’s champion, Becky Morgan, 45, is back again. Last year was her ninth attempt in India having never won a title on LET or the LPGA previously. She admitted that at one point after coming close to winning on the LPGA and then not making it, thought she was never going to get over the line.

She said, “Coming into the last round in HWIO 2018, there were three of us tied on four-under (Morgan, Broch Larsen and Ellie Givens). I got no sleep at all the night before, because I was in this ‘here we go again’ mentality. I thought, let’s do something else, let’s not look at the scoreboard.

“That’s the one round of my life where I was mentally 100 per cent. I spoke to a friend that morning and she suggested that I have a mantra in my head to take myself away from the situation.

“On the 15th green, I saw my name at the top (of the leader board), but I didn’t see any scores. The next time I looked was on 18 and it was a very pleasant surprise.

“Knowing that I had a two-shot lead, I had a 20-25 foot putt from above the hole and I thought, if this doesn’t go in, let’s make sure it goes past the hole, so you give yourself an uphiller and you can nudge it towards the hill if you have to. I was obviously happy to make that but it was definitely a strategy not to leave myself a downhill putt in case it slid by. That was the only time I thought about the actual winning of the tournament. It was a feeling of happiness but also of relief. I thought: you’ve now won a golf event: for one week, you were the best. Obviously I would love to repeat it again this year.”

She is upbeat to be here and would love to get better than the best of T-14 she has as her top performance of 2019 at Australian Ladies. “This year so far hasn’t been great, but winning once makes you feel like you can do it again and I’m looking forward to defending,” she said.

As for the Indians, apart from Diksha, there is Tvesa Malik and Gaurika Bishnoi, the best Indians in 2018 at T-13, Vani Kapoor, who was T-6 in 2017.

Now the Indian squad also has amateurs like the talented Pranavi Urs, the 15-year-old and Sneha Singh, the only amateur to have won this year on the domestic WPGA Tour.

There is also the up and coming Ridhima Dilawari, who has won three titles on domestic Tour this year and she played the Asian Games as an amateur, alongside Diksha last year in Jakarta.

Diksha is upbeat at the prospect of her first outing at the HWIO as a professional. “It is going to be exciting, playing as a professional here for the first time. I am used to playing here and one thing I know now is that you have to learn from the golf course, find the best places to place your ball and pick the best lines.”

For her part, Hyderabad’s Sneha is surprisingly calm about her prospects, never having faced the testing Black Knight course designed by South African great Gary Player.

“Yes, it is a tough course but It’s not all that bad, and I’ll be doing my best here. I was here two years ago to watch the Open when DLF invited junior players from some clubs around the country to come and watch the professionals. This will be a good challenge,” she said on Wednesday.

Among the internationals, a few others have recent form behind them including Austria’s Christine Wolf, who finished tied fourth behind Solheim Cup star Carlotta Ciganda at last week’s Estrella Damm Mediterranean Open in Spain.


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