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Season-ending championship from today

NOIDA, MAY 31. If the big pay-cheques are the lure for many, there are several others who will just strive to make the cut and secure their cards for the next season. This is just what the season-ending Rs. 28 lakh PGAI-TSM Open golf tournament, which tees off at the Noida Golf Course here on Tuesday, offers to the different set of players.

For the top five, S.S.P. Chowrasia, Digvijay Singh, Mukesh Kumar, Vijay Kumar and Ashok Kumar, the tournament is a chance to grab the Order of Merit title, even though the season has extended into the hot and dry June.

Chowrasia, with earnings so far of Rs. 8,50,365 leads Digvijay Singh by about Rs. 38,000 but with first prize pegged at Rs. 4,53,600 anything can happen at the end of the four-day event.

In fact, the difference between Chowrasia and the fifth-placed Ashok Kumar is just about Rs. 50,000, leaving enough room for an upheaval in the merit list.

On the other hand, players such as Indrajit Bhalotia, K.P.S. Sekhon and Vikramjeet Singh lie way down the Order of Merit, and if they miss the cut here they are sure to lose their cards for the next season.

Also on the block are Amandeep Johl, Harmeet Kahlon and Jyoti Randhawa, as the three would have played fewer tournaments than the required number, to retain their playing cards. Nonetheless, the sponsors' entries will ensure them the presence next season also.

Not many can have that luxury. Those at 45th and below on the merit list must make the cut or otherwise will have to come through the gruelling Q-school.

"Noida Golf Course is a tough landscape and given the kind of heat we have now it becomes more tough,'' said Ashok Kumar, who has been practising here for the last one week. Ashok had led the merit order till April but inconsistent play in the last two events saw him slip to the fifth place.

"This tournament has come as a saviour for me as it was not planned till a fortnight ago,'' he said. "It gives me yet another chance to grab my maiden Order of Merit,'' he added.

Ashok Kumar and Chowrasia are the two players who have been consistent on this course. The two have won a tournament each in the 2003-04 season while for Ashok the course has special memories as he had struck his first pro title here.

The field comprises 120 players including 10 amateurs and the only notable absence from the Order of Merit will be Randhawa, who is busy playing on the Japanese PGA Tour. — Our Sports Reporter

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