Star Parade at Hero Honda Indian Open

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New Delhi, Oct 6: It is going to be a star parade at the Hero Honda Indian Open with confirmation that 26 Asian Tour winners will assemble at the Delhi Golf Club here next week to fight it out for the top honours.

The Hero Honda Indian Open is the 22nd leg of this season's Asian Tour, which is offering an all-time high 28 tournaments with over 27 million dollar in total prize money to the region's talented players.

Last year's Asian Tour's UBS Order of Merit champion Jeev Milkha Singh will spearhead the local charge alongside compatriot and title holder Jyoti Randhawa, while the in-form Gaurav Ghei is also strongly tipped to contend at the venue here, which has brought him success in the past.

The collection of winners will include several former Indian Open champions, namely Thailand's Thaworn Wiratchant, veteran American Mike Cunning, Singaporean Mardan Mamat and India's very own Ali Sher.

Chinese Taipei's Lu Wen-teh, the only player to win twice this season, is also expected to mount a serious challenge at the tree-lined Delhi course which fits perfectly to his straight-hitting style of play.

The 44-year-old Lu, seventh on the UBS Order of Merit, was victorious at the Macau Open and Mercuries Taiwan Masters, both courses which reward accuracy and patience.

Thaworn, champion of the Hero Honda Indian Open in 2005, will also be in tip-top form after snaring his ninth career title last month at the Midea China Classic, which made him the player with the most wins on the Asian Tour.

The 40-year-old triumphed in a three-way play-off, first sinking a pressure-packed 15-foot birdie at the last hole to join the shootout and then holding off compatriot Chinarat Phadungsil in the fourth extra hole after Scotsman Simon Yates had bowed out in the first play-off hole.

With the Asian Tour continuously producing a wealth of young talents, Thaworn, Asia's number one in 2005, knows that winning these days comes a lot harder.

While the likes of Thaworn and Lu represent the old brigade, big-hitting Thais Chapchai Nirat and Chinarat represent the future of Asian golf and both the players have sparkled in recent times.

Chapchai, 24, broke through in a big way to win the co-sanctioned TCL Classic in China earlier this year and is now fifth on the UBS Order of Merit. Two recent top-20 finishes have given him the boost to challenge for a maiden Hero Honda Indian Open crown.

Meanwhile, Chinarat turns 19 on November one but he already has two Asian Tour wins under his belt. The teen titan is one of the most exciting young players to emerge onto the scene in recent years.

Other Asian Tour champions who will tee up at the Delhi Golf Club include South African Hendrik Buhrmann, England's Chris Rodgers, American Anthony Kang, Filipino Angelo Que and Canadian Rick Gibson.

UNI

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