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10 Feb 2008 14:34
SSP Chowrasia claimed the biggest prize of his career by winning the Indian Masters on Sunday, holding off Ireland’s Damien McGrane for a two-stroke victory.
Nicknamed “Chipputtsia” due to his superb short game, Chowrasia was running hot in perfect conditions at the Delhi Golf Club, sinking four birdies in his opening seven holes to go to the turn in 32, one ahead of the Irishman.
He kept his composure on the back nine with a huge crowd cheering him on for a bogey-free 67 to end at nine-under for the championship to ensure his name goes down in history as the first winner of the inaugural tournament.
It was also his maiden European Tour victory.
“It is the biggest win of my life. I can’t describe my emotions,” said Chowrasia, whose initials stand for Shiv Shankar Prasad.
“Only when I get back to Kolkata will it sink in.
Before the tournament I never dreamed I would win, but I had a good feeling.
“My plan really was just to keep to par on the back nine.
McGrane, also looking for his first European win, dropped shots at the seventh, 10th and 17th but clung on for second ahead of Spain’s Jose Manuel Lara, who ended two shots further back.
It was a memorable tournament for Indian players, with Digvijay Singh finishing fourth alongside France’s Raphael Jacquelin, and Gaurev Ghei joint sixth.
World number four Ernie Els was well placed to make a charge on the leaderboard but the putts refused to drop.
He made just two birdies against one bogey in his 71 to end tied for sixth on 285, along with nine-time European Tour winner Thomas Bjorn among others.
Although he won the Tata Open on the Professional Golf Tour of India last year, Sunday’s victory was Chowrasia’s first at the top level and a huge achievement for the 29-year-old from Kolkata.
His is a true rags-to-riches story.
The son of a greenkeeper at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club, from age 10 he used to sneak onto the fairways to play a few holes until chased off by staff members.
He has now bought a house next to the course and is welcomed as a star.
His pay cheque Sunday—$416 660—is almost double what he had earned in his previous 10 years as a professional.
“I haven’t had a good think about what I will do but I expect I’ll now play a lot more in Europe, as well as Asia,” he said.
While Chowrasia and the India brigade prospered, the challenge from Asian Tour players came to nothing, although Thailand’s Prayad Marksaeng shot a credible 68 to finish 14 behind the winner.—AFP
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