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By David John Last updated: 10th February 2010

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Put local hero Jyoti Randhawa in your team of Indian golfers to follow at this week's Avantha Masters, says Dave John.

Randhawa - big chance at his home course.

Randhawa - big chance at his home course.

Golf will never come close to challenging the religion that is cricket in India but the brand new Avantha Masters at the DLF Golf and Country Club in New Delhi has the chance to highlight some of the rising talent in the country's fastest growing sport.

It is the home contingent we are are very much interested in as well for what is a much lower-key line-up compared to the last three weeks of the Gulf Swing in the Middle East.

Market leader is Jeev Milkha Singh, who Ladbrokes make their 8/1 favourite - but others are happy to lay at 10s.

He looks short enough to me at those double-figure odds as well although punters will probably point to his T15 finish last week in Dubai as a decent enough warm-up for this much lesser test.

But he may just have his focus elsewhere at the moment as he became a father two weeks ago and although I have little doubt that will be an inspiration to him, it may take a little time before he gets back into the groove on the golf course.

I was expecting Jyoti Randhawa to be around the 20/1 mark for this but he is available at nearly three times the price of Singh and has to be backed.

Along with Jeev, he has probably done the most in recent seasons to raise the profile of golf in India and provide the inspiration for the next wave of players to arrive on the scene.

I have no doubt that he will be relishing his country being in the spotlight once again with the event also taking place at his home course.

He boasts a tremendous record at the venue having won the DLF Masters by 10 shots back in 2007, successfuly defending that title in 2008 and then finishing T4 last year.

It can be argued that Randhawa should have been a multiple winner on the European Tour by now and his resolution in a finish does come into question.

He is a regular winner in his home country though and as long as he can handle the expectation - it seems to me he thrives on it - then this could just be his best chance with plenty in his favour.

The 28/1 available is too big.

As mentioned, the next crop of golfers from India is now starting to make an impact and at the forefront is 21-year-old Gaganjeet Bhullar.

My first thought was that he was on the short side chalked up at 25/1 but having delved a little deeper, he is well worth supporting.

He arrives in New Delhi in red-hot form having landed last week's Asian Tour International by a stroke following a superb closing round of 64.

That perhaps would not be enough at the odds but a look at his record on the Professional Golf Tour of India makes mighty impressive reading.

The level of competition is obviously a notch or two below Europe and Asia but five wins in 2009 is still a great statistic.

One of those wins was in the DLF Masters at this course where he romped home by five shots from another rising star Anirban Lahiri.

His win last week in Bangkok certainly set himslef up nicely for a crack at back-to-back titles and he said: "It's a big event and I love the DLF course as I've won there twice (on the local circuit).

"Going back to play in front of the home crowd will give me a great sense of achievement."

It can pay to catch a player while he is hot in the early weeks of a campaign and Bhullar has excellent claims of getting in the mix once again.

Darren Clarke and Liang Wen-chong are potentially big factors too this week.

Clarke has a Ryder Cup berth as his major goal and he tees it up here hoping he can bag the winner's cheque against some lesser opposition.

He came up just shy at the Joburg Open and with no Charl Schwartzel around, he can't be ruled out.

Liang started his year with a solid T25 at the Sony Open in Hawaii on the PGA Tour.

He skips the Chinese Lunar Year reunion dinner to play and does have past winning form in India, but both he and Clarke don't really stand out at 16/1.

I would rather look elsewhere and there are a trio of players at three-figure odds who catch the eye.

First up is SSP Chowrasia, who was a winner in India in a previous European Tour event - the 2008 Indian Masters at Delhi Golf Club.

Times have been a bit lean since and he will need to pull his finger out as a two-year exemption runs out at the end of this year.

Although recent results may suggest otherwise, a recent interview revealed he is in upbeat mood: "I have always enjoyed playing at the DLF.

"I have changed my swing a little and am experiencing better feel to my game. My form is very good."

There was a hint of that with his T22 In Hong Kong at the back end of 2009 and it may not be a big shock to see him make an impact on home soil at 125/1.

Mukesh Kumar is a 100/1 chance and may just be worth taking a punt on too.

The 44-year-old has enjoyed a couple of golden seasons on the PGTI, racking up no less than eight victories.

He has started 2010 in similar vein with a win at the Aircel Players Championship where he romped across the line by six shots.

"To get a win at my first event of the season is a great launchpad for the year," he said after lifting the trophy in Kolkata and like Bhullar, arrives with bags of momentum.

He was second in the 2008 DLF Masters when he ran Randhawa to a shot and the 2007/08 Indian Order of Merit winner obviously knows how to get the job done.

Our final pick is for New Zealand's Mark Bown at 100/1 as well.

Brown has struggled for some time now but I had him in my mind for this event as it was on this course where he won the 2008 Johnnie Walker Classic.

He has shown some form over odd rounds but the overall trend has been one of disappointment since the middle of last year.

However, he might just be inspired on his return to India - where he also won the 2008 SAIL Open - and bolted up by three shots in the Johnnie Walker after a blistering back nine.

Let's take a chance that positive memories flood back for the 2008 New Zealand Golfer of the Year and he makes a real impact for the first time since the China Open last April.

Tips:

1.5pts e.w. Jyoti Randhawa at 28/1 (bet365, Stan James, Coral 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). On his home course and can thrive in front of the Indian galleries.

1.5pts e.w. Gaganjeet Bhullar at 25/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). Winner last week and a rising star of Indian golf.

1pt e.w. SSP Chowrasia at 125/1 (Blue Square 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). Signs that swing changes are working and a past winner on home soil.

1pt e.w. Mukesh Kumar at 100/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). Prolific winner in India and made a fast start to 2010.

1pt e.w. Mark Brown at 100/1 (bet365 1/4, 1,2,3,4,5). Speculative option but has tremendous memories here.

  • Preview posted at 0745GMT on 10/02/2010.

    David John



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