European Tour

S.S.P. Chawrasia finally lifts Indian Open trophy after four previous runner-up finishes

S.S.P. Chawrasia wins 2016 Hero Indian Open.
S.S.P. Chawrasia wins 2016 Hero Indian Open. ( Getty Images )

Sunday, March 20, 2016

S.S.P. Chawrasia is living proof that perseverance really can pay off. After finishing runner-up on four previous occasions, Chawrasia finally won his national open.

The man born Shiv Sankar Prasad but simply called S.S.P. held off a charging Anirban Lahiri to win the Hero Indian Open at New Delhi Golf Club in the Indian capital. Chawrasia won by two shots after a final round 1-under-par 71 gave him a 15-under-par 273 total.

“I felt a little bit nervous, but I was talking to myself to stay focussed, and I was breathing out slowly, slowly,” Chawrasia said.

“I saved a lot of shots this week, and that really helped me a lot. I made some tough up and downs, and that was the key actually.

“I was four-time runner-up, and I was thinking I have to win this tournament. It was my dream, and I got it.”

Lahiri, the highest-ranked player in the field at world number 52, was defending the title he won last year after defeating Chawrasia in a playoff. He finished joint second with South Korea’s Jeunghun Wang on 13-under.

It is Chawrasia’s third European Tour victory, but first since the 2011 Avantha Masters.

Not only was Chawrasia trying to win his national open, he was trying to secure full European Tour playing privileges. He lost his card last year but was in the co-sanctioned field courtesy of his Asian Tour status.

He was also chasing more immediate goals.

“This is very important because I don’t have a full card in Europe,” he said. “Most probably I will now be playing in the Olympics and World Cup so it’s a very, very important win for me.”

The 37-year-old is now exempt until the end of 2017. The $277,881 first place check moves him to 20th on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

Lahiri may have been the pre-tournament favourite, but Chawrasia’s track record around the tight New Delhi GC layout made him an obvious contender. He made history in 2008 when he won the EMAAR-MGF Indian Masters over the New Delhi course, the first European Tour event to be held in India. His four Indian Open runner-ups came at the same venue. Strange, then, that British bookmakers had him at 40/1 odds.

Rags to riches stories don’t come much better than Chawrasia’s. His father was a greenskeeper at Calcutta Golf Club. He caddied at the course from the age of 10, often sneaking onto the course to practise.

He’s now India’s national champion, and will probably partner Lahiri in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

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