Singapore, Oct 19: Indian golfer Chiragh Kumar has earned his 2016 Asian Tour card after battling to a joint runner-up finish at the $1 million Macao Open for his best result since 2011. The 31-year-old was delighted to secure full playing rights for next season after narrowly missing out on a full card when he finished 65th on the Asian Tour Order of Merit last year. (Read:ISL 2015 Match Preview: Chennaiyin FC looking to bag full points against NorthEastUnited FC)
He won $86,500 after finishing behind eventual winner Scott Hend of Australia to swell his season’s haul to $107,737 which pushed him from 69th to 24th on the merit list.
Chiragh said he draws inspiration from compatriots Anirban Lahiri and Gaganjeet Bhullar, who were in the same team as him in the 2006 Doha Asian Games where they claimed the silver medal.
“Looking at how well they have done has always been an inspiration for me. We all started out together and we turned professional almost at the same time. Gaganjeet has turned superstar now and so has Anirban,” he said.
“I’m playing well right now. I just need to put forth all these together. It’s more mental than anything else. These guys are really good and they really know how to handle themselves. That’s something I really need to learn. I just do my own thing and I just try to keep focused.”
Hend, who won the Macao Open for the second time in three years, praised Chiragh’s battling spirit.
“Chiragh played amazing golf for a guy who hasn’t got a full card. His golf this week was amazing and hopefully he can get an invite into this week’s tournament. He played very good,” said the 42-year-old, who won his seventh Asian Tour title in Macao.
Lahiri, who also finished tied-second with Chiragh, hopes his countryman will continue the momentum in the second half of the season.
“I’m very happy to see how well Chiragh played. It’s a big year for him; he’s become a dad. He lost his card last year but he has won so many times in India. He’s just showed that he can play under the gun when it really matters as he had a lot to play for,” said Lahiri.
“It was really impressive to see how he handled himself, including the putt on the last. I’m happy for him and hopefully he wins on the Asian Tour soon. He nearly won the Indian Open a few years ago so he can get it done.”
Lahiri, who has won twice this season, extended his lead on the Order of Merit to $1,011,984. He is the third player in Asian Tour history to surpass the $1 million earnings barrier in a single season, achieved thus far by countryman Jeev Milkha Singh and Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
Hend, who won with a record winning total of 20-under-par 264, took home the winner’s prize purse of $180,000 and moved to second place on the Order of Merit with $438,781. He will defend his Hong Kong Open title this week.
Asian Tour Order of Merit (Top-10)
1. Anirban Lahiri (IND) $1011984.65
2. Scott Hend (AUS) $438781.66
3. Andrew Dodt (AUS) $388450.42
4. S.S.P. Chawrasia (IND) $278558.75
5. Thongchai Jaidee (THA) $239340.13
6. Richard T. Lee (CAN) $220317.65
7. Cameron Smith (AUS) $203518.66
8. Danny Chia (MAS) $199613.86
9. Paul Peterson (USA) $181896.52
10. Marcus Fraser (AUS) $181299.77