Gurugram, 31-03-2024

Keita Nakajima wins Hero Indian Open with record winning score, India’s Veer Ahlawat tied second

Ahlawat takes a substantial lead in the TATA Steel PGTI Ranking

Keita Nakajima was never really threatened at the USD 2.25 million Hero Indian Open as he won by four shots and set a record for a winning total by aggregating 17-under, three better than the winning score of 2023 achieved by Germany’s Marcel Siem, who was injured and couldn't defend his title this year.

Nakajima’s win was never in doubt, it was only about the margin of victory. At one stage, Nakajima was nine clear of the field, but finally finished four ahead to take his maiden DP World Tour title at the DLF Golf and Country Club. After touching 21-under after eight holes on the final day, he dropped a double bogey and three bogeys against one birdie in the last five holes to finish 17-under and four clear of three players, including India’s Veer Ahlawat, American Johannes Veerman and Sweden’s Sebastian Soderberg.

It was Nakajima’s fifth title, after four on the Japanese Tour, which includes one as an amateur, where he topped the 2023 Order of Merit to earn his DP World Tour card.

There was a lot to cheer for the local fans as local golfer Veer Ahlawat (69-66-69-71) produced a grandstand finish with a 15-feet eagle conversion on the 18th for a round of 1-under 71 after a mid-round run of four bogeys between the sixth and the 14th. He also sank three other birdies on Sunday. The tied-second, Ahlawat’s best finish on the DP World Tour, should get him into the next event in Korea in a fortnight’s time.

Ahlawat was the top Indian for the second year in a row, after being T-13 last year with Shubhankar Sharma (72), who this time ended T-31st. Veer’s runner-up finish was his best ever result at an international event.

Manu Gandas (71) who played the DP World Tour in 2023, was the next best Indian, just outside the Top-10 in Tied-11th place, which was his best finish on the Tour.

Apart from Ahlawat and Gandas, the other Indians were Karandeep Kochhar (69) in T-13, Shubhankar Sharma (72) in T-31, Aman Raj (78) in T-51, Jairaj Singh Sandhu (71) and Gaganjeet Bhullar (72) in T-58 and Rashid Khan (78) in T-65.

Nakajima showed some nervousness and stuttered in the closing stages. He dropped a double bogey on the 14th, which he had bogeyed the first three days, and then dropped more shots on the Par-3 16th, the Par-4 17th and the Par-5 18th.

Gurugram lad Ahlawat bagged his biggest ever prize money cheque of Rs. 1.38 crore. With only half of the prize money earned from this event being added to the PGTI Order of Merit, Veer added Rs. 61,69,667 to his PGTI kitty that propelled him to the top of the TATA Steel PGTI Ranking.

Veer has opened up a substantial lead of over Rs. 31 lakh in the PGTI’s money’s list with his season’s earnings moving to Rs. 71,82,267. Rahil Gangjee is placed second in the PGTI’s money list.

Even as he finished tied second, Ahlawat was very happy with the result. He said, I’m really happy to have played so well in front of my home crowd, my family and my newly-wedded wife. There was some pressure on me this week as there were high expectations from me playing at my home course with my coach also being present here. But I managed to put together a good week thanks to some brilliant driving and iron-play.”

“Finishing with an eagle was the icing on the cake. There was just one bad drive by me on the eighth today, other than that I didn’t hit bad shots. I just didn’t make good pars on a few holes I would say. Playing well in such a strong field and negotiating the tough windy conditions on the final day really boosts my morale. With the roars, I almost felt like a winner, especially since we were all fighting for second place, once Keita went so far ahead.”

As for his goal from here, he added, “I now lead the PGTI Order of Merit and that gives me a good chance to contend for the Order of Merit crown that can in turn earn me a card on the DP World Tour next year,” added Ahlawat, who gained four spots on Sunday from his overnight sixth place.

Nakajima was thrilled even as he admitted some nervousness. “I'm very happy to win the Indian National Open. The National Open is a very good tournament. So this win feels like my first win in a professional career, a new career. I'm going to try to win and go to the next step.

“I'm very proud to have won on the DP World Tour and very honoured to be playing here. I want to try and finish on the top ten on this tour and then go to the PGA TOUR in 2025.

"The win definitely gives me a lot of confidence in myself and I'm hoping now to take what I did this week and turn it into even more wins in the future.

"I was a little nervous and I had a tough back nine but I hit some great shots. Fortunately I had a few strokes in the bank which I can credit back to my strong play on the front nine and the earlier rounds this week, so overall very proud of my performance."

“My coach is Gareth Jones, an Australian and also he's working with Japan national team since 2015,” he shared. On his goals, he added, “I want to also play in the Japan’s Olympic team with probably Hideki. That's my goal. I'm going to try it.”

Manu Gandas fired four birdies the three bogeys during his 71 on Sunday to rise two spots to tied 11th.

Karandeep Kochhar’s 69 featuring an eagle, four birdies and three bogeys, saw him rise 17 spots to tied 13th.

About PGTI:

Formed in 2006, Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) is the recognised official body of professional golf in India. PGTI's objective is to promote professional golf in the country, as well as to give players an opportunity to be involved in the decision making on all aspects of the game. Headed by Mr. Srinivasan H R (President), PGTI's governing body comprises leading Indian golf professionals. PGTI currently has over 300 members.

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