South African star Ernie Els will be walking on familiar ground when he tees off at the EMAAR-MGF Indian Masters on Thursday.
The world number four will be on the prowl in the Asian Tour and European Tour co-sanctioned event in India hoping to chalk up a win at the historical Delhi Golf Club.
Els, who finished third last week in Dubai, realises the strong local challenge in the US$ 2.5 million tournament led by Asian Tour's Shiv Kapur, former Asian number ones Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal and Jyoti Randhawa together with Gaurav Ghei.
Despite the local charge, Els believes that the familiar conditions at the Delhi Golf Club will guide him through a solid week.
"I'm really excited to be here. I just played the course, the full 18-holes and I think it's a wonderful golf course, old fashioned course.
"I have played a lot of courses around the world obviously and this course for some reason reminds me a little of South Africa. The vegetation and some of the trees are very similar to what we have in South Africa. The lay-out is very old style and design which I really like and I enjoy the course. You never play two holes which are similar and you never really see any other holes out there when you are playing which I like too," said Els, who admitted that there is a lot of potential for the development of golf in India.
"If you look at Jeev who has won in Japan and on The European Tour and Jyoti, Shiv doing well and Arjun playing on the US PGA Tour, they have all broken through. India need to start building more courses and have an infrastructure for the game and then hopefully you will be off to the races," added Els.
Hoping to stay ahead will be local sensation Randhawa who has a proven track record at the Delhi Golf Club when he successfully defended his Hero Honda Indian Open title last year as he looks to make it his third win in three years.
"Any time you play at Delhi Golf Club, and any time you play in Delhi, it's very special. People come out and cheer you, and you know, it's good that people follow you and it's great for Indian golf and it's great for me," said Randhawa.
"I think the Indian field is very strong. This golf course, it's one golf course that requires local knowledge, especially on the greens. That's a very good chance of an Indian doing well and probably winning the golf tournament," added the New Delhi-born golfer.
Another crowd favourite Kapur believes that home advantage could be the difference at the Delhi Golf Club when against a starry field that include England's David Howell and Irishman Darren Clarke.
"If I was a betting man I would bet on Joyti. And Jeev has found some form, and Joyti's got probably the best record at Delhi Golf Club of anybody. I really won't be surprised if there's an Indian winner. A lot of the Indians are playing well and in good form.
"The advantage we have over here is we play for 12 months of the year, and nobody has really had much of an off‑season and everybody is in the swing of things," said Kapur, who was the 2005 Asian Tour's Rookie of the Year.
The Thai players are also present this week with Chapchai Nirat, Prom Meesawat, Chawalit Plaphol and former Asian number one Thaworn Wiratchant hoping to start the season on a high note.
Photographs: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images