Avantha Masters helps golf boom in India

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The European Tour has moved on from Dubai to India this week – and , though he would like to have been heading to America instead, Dutchman Joost Luiten has made the trip too.

Two weeks ago the 26-year-old was 64th in the world and in position to qualify for a world championship debut at next week’s Accenture Match Play in Arizona.

But finishes of 42nd in Abu Dhabi and then 33rd at last week’s Desert Classic have dropped Luiten, winner of the Johor Open in Malaysia last November, to 69th and put him only fourth reserve for Dove Mountain.

He is part of a line-up at the Avantha Masters in New Delhi that includes former Open champions John Daly and Todd Hamilton, Ryder Cup hero Paul McGinley and German Marcel Siem, who shared the lead with Lee Westwood for a while in Dubai on Sunday before dropping back to fourth.

The defending champion is local hero SSP Chowrasia, who also won the title in 2008.

“I’ve been practising hard and I’m feeling really good,” he told the European Tour website. “I’ve done a bit of work on my swing over the off-season and it’s paying off. I’m feeling very confident about my game.

“Last year was great for Indian golf and Indian players. Golf in India is growing – cricket is number one, but golf is the next fastest growing sport and I hope my victory inspires more people to play.” England’s Robert Coles returns to the course with memories of what might have been last February.

The Essex player needed a birdie on the par-five closing hole to win but, from the edge of the green in two, he thinned his chip 20 feet past and three-putted for a bogey six.

It was the closest the 39-year-old has come in a European Tour career that goes back to 1995. Indeed, in all that time, he has had only one other top-three finish.

Dunfermline-born Ross Bain leads the Scottish challenge, which also includes George Murray, David Drysdale, Marc Warren, Scott Jamieson, Ritchie Ramsay and Peter Whiteford.