New Delhi, Mar 3 (PTI) A power-packed line-up of Asian Tour stars consisting of 40 Tour champions and nine Order of Merit winners will vie the coveted title at next week’s USD 1.75 million Hero Indian Open.

Reigning Asian Tour number one Scott Hend of Australia will spearhead the stellar cast alongside many of the region’s top stars including India’s Anirban Lahiri, Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Filipino Miguel Tabuena, Chinese Taipei’s Chan Shih-chang and Bangladeshi trailblazer Siddikur Rahman.

Eight players featuring in the current top-10 of the Order of Merit including Thai teen phenom Phachara Khongwatmai, American David Lipsky and India’s Shubhankar Sharma will also tee up at the DLF Golf and Country Club from March 9 to 12 and challenge for the Hero Indian Open title held by SSP Chawrasia.

Four of this season’s winners on the Asian Tour, Thai veteran Prayad Marksaeng and Jazz Janewattananond, Australian Todd Sinnott and Brett Rumford will also be shooting for their second victory of the year. Collectively, all tour champions featuring in the Hero Indian Open have won over 130 victories.

Long-hitting Hend, the first Australian to become Asia’s number one, will be eager to put on a strong showing at DLF to enhance his chances of qualifying for the WGC-Dell Match Play and also the year’s first Major, the Masters Tournament.

Currently ranked 68th in the world, he needs to break into the top-50 the week prior to the Masters to qualify.

Hence, Hend, who is competing in the WGC-Mexico Championship this week, has committed to take the trip to Delhi in search of a 10th Asian Tour victory and Official World Golf Ranking points.

In the past 10 editions of the Hero Indian Open, Indian golfers have won five times and Lahiri will be aiming to land his second tournament victory after his memorable triumph in 2015, the year he became the Asian Tour Order of Merit champion.

“The win is definitely up there. It’s one of the most special feelings. We call it our fifth Major. It’s as special as any other victories but maybe it ranks above everything else that I’ve done,” said Lahiri.

The 29-year-old believes the tournament’s move to the Gary Player-designed DLF course would ensure a more level playing field.

“I would say it would not be as Indian dominated if the event was held at Delhi Golf Club. DLF is more parkland and more like the European-style courses. It’s going to be more open and longer holes, not as demanding off the tee as with DGC. You might not see a leaderboard littered with Indian names. But It’ll be great to keep the Indian Open in India,” he said.

“It’s 18 new holes which won’t be the same as to what we’ve played on previously. I don’t know what to expect. I’ll be playing it the first time when I get there.” India will be strongly represented with the likes of Gaganjeet Bhullar, Jyoti Randhawa, Arjun Atwal, Jeev Milkha Singh, Chikkaranggapa S., Mukesh Kumar and Rahil Gangjee amongst those expected to launch a title challenge in their home Open, which is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.