New Delhi, Feb 23 (IANS) Defending champion Anirban Lahiri and three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington will headline one of the strongest ever fields to assemble at the Indian Open to be played at the iconic Delhi Golf Course (DGC) here from March 17 to 20.

Featuring alongside the marquee names, a strong field of players from Europe and Asia will once again return for the 52nd edition of India’s national open. The event, with Hero MotorCorp as title sponsors, sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour for the second straight year will carry an enhanced prize purse of $1.66 million.

The four-day event will see all top Indian players who between them have won numerous international titles. The Indian field includes Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal, S.S.P. Chawrasia, Shiv Kapur, Gaganjeet Bhullar, Rashid Khan, Rahil Gangjee, Himmat Rai and Chiragh Kumar among others.

The roster of former champions includes Siddikur Rahman (Bangladesh), Thaworn Wiratchant (Thailand), Mardan Mamat (Singapore) and India’s own Atwal.

While Lahiri defends his title, Chawrasia, four-time runner-up here, will attempt to go one better at the course where he has won twice and was second in the last two editions.

“The Hero Indian Open is a flagship event for the sport in Asia and it has been the pride of Indian Golf Union (IGU) for over half a century,” IGU president Anil Seolekar said on Tuesday.

“Its rich history is virtually the history of Indian golf and we have had champions of high quality in the past. And it is always great to see Indians win the Indian Open and it will be great to have Anirban return to defend his title.”

Even as he attained new heights in golf and went on to earn a PGA Tour card for 2016, Lahiri ranked the win at the Indian Open as “achieving a lifelong dream”.

As he returns to defend his title, Lahiri said, “Winning the Indian Open was a lifelong dream and to be able to come back and defend one’s own National Open title is indeed a matter of pride. This was one of the proudest moments in my career.”

Lahiri is currently playing on the PGA Tour and will arrive here straight from the World Golf Championships.

Entries are still being received and the final list of players will be known closer to the event. All top Indian stars are expected to tee up at the DGC, which after hosting the inaugural edition in 1964, has hosted the Open more than half the number of times in its 52-year-long existence.

Nimbus Sport has acquired the rights to manage the tournament. Apart from Hero MotoCorp, the other sponsors are Rolex, Emirates, DP World, Jumeirah Golf Estates, BMW, Titleist and Golf Plus Magazine.

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    The IANS was founded by Indian American publisher Gopal Raju as the India Abroad News Service. It was later renamed the Indo-Asian News Service.

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