Hero Women's Indian Open 2023

Sharmila finishes as top Indian; Caroline Hedwall is champion

Gurgaon, India Dec 11: In the end Sharmila Nicollet maintained her current position as India’s top professional with an excellent 68 on the final day for tied 22nd as the curtain came down on the Hero Women’s Indian Open on Sunday. She totaled 217 and jumped from overnight 50th to 22nd place and picked up 2,565 euros.

Sweden’s 23-year-old Caroline Hedwall stayed calm and patient through the day for a fine 69, following 67 and 68 on the first two days to finish at 12-under 204 and run out a two-shot winner over the fighting second-placed Phatlum Pornanong (67-69-70) whose two bogeys on the ninth and 16th cost her dear. The champion of 2008 and 2009 finished in top-6 for the fourth year running.

Smriti Mehra, who at one time looked like gunning for top-15, if not better following her four-under stretch over first nine hole starting from tenth, collapsed on the back nine, especially on the last three holes with three bogeys in a row. She was four-under for first nine and five-over for the second half and her 73 saw her finish tied 42nd.

Amateur Gauri Monga (75-72-74) at 221 stayed at her overnight tied 37th place, while Neha Tripathi (72-77-74) was tied 49th at 223 and amateur Vani Kapoor (74-75-76) was tied 57th at 225.

Sharmila, who went through some tense moments before making the cut on Saturday had a brilliant back nine with three birdies between the second and fifth, after starting on the tenth. The 20-year-old Bangalore professional finished with a final round of four-under 68 with five birdies and one bogey.

“Last year I was 24th and this year it is 22nd. It would have been nice to be in top-10, which was my goal,” said the strikingly god-looking Sharmila. “My approaches and putting were great today. I was hitting it to around six feet from the pin consistently. There were no three-putts and but for the one hole where I found the water, I would have returned an error free round.”

She added, “The only place I can fault myself in is that I chickened out towards the end, as I wanted to maintain the four-under score-line.”

On her immediate plans, she said, “Well, I have a tournament to play at the Qutab Golf Course next week, after which I head out to Spain for the Ladies European Tour Qualifying School. It’s going to be tough there with a 90 hole Pre-Qualifier and a 72 hole Qualifier. The weather is going to play a huge part too but I am ready for the challenge with my long game.”

Smriti said, “I started off fabulously today. The plan was to attack the pin and go for broke and a birdie start to my round (on the tenth) set me up nicely. It was one of those strange days when everything fell in place in the first half and everything fell apart on the back-nine. At the half-way stage I was nicely positioned to essay a top-ten finish but my putting let me down miserably. It (putting) was pathetic. However it must be said that I have seldom hit the ball so well. My driving and iron-play were fabulous all week.”