Bhullar breaks duck, becomes youngest champ

21-year-old pulls off two-stroke win for maiden professional title on Asian Tour

Gaganjeet Bhullar (left) receives the winner’s trophy from Indonesian  President Susilo Bammbang Yudoyono in Jakarta on Sunday. AFP

He buried the ghosts of 2007 and totalled a brilliant 22-under 266 with rounds of 69, 68, 62 and 67.

“It feels good to land my first title on Asian Tour. After playing the British Open, winning a title on Asian Tour was my next goal. I have been fortunate to achieve it in the very next week. After the disappointment of 2007, where I lost the title as Juvic Pagunsan had a birdie-eagle finish, it is indeed a great feeling,” said Bhullar, who last week made his Major debut.

“I’ve won three times on the Indian circuit this year and my goal a few months back was to win on the Asian Tour and this will get me into all the co-sanctioned events now and give me a lot of confidence in my coming years,” said Bhullar, who received his trophy from Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

At 21, Bhullar becomes the youngest Indian to win a title on an International Tour, beating the previous record of Jeev Milkha Singh and Shiv Kapur, who were both 23 when they won their first title in Asia. Jeev was 23 when he won the 1994 Shinhan Donghae Open a year before the Asian Tour was born and Kapur was 23 when he won the Volvo Masters of Asia in 2005.

Bhullar is the eighth Indian after Jeev, Gaurav Ghei, Jyoti Randhawa, Arjun Atwal, Rahil Gangjee, Shiv and SSP Chowrasia to win on the Asian Tour.

Of the other Indians, Rahil Gangjee, who had an eagle two in the midst of three-bogey spell from fifth to eighth holes, was on fire on the back nine. He birdied six of the nine holes for 30 and a total of 67 to finish 25th, his second best finish of the season.
Amandeep Johl shot a fourth straight 70 to be eight-under 280 and tied 37th. Anirban Lahiri, a team-mate of Bhullar when India won the silver medal in 2006 Asian Games, shot a final round 67 to tie for 47th at five-under 283.

The win in Jakarta comes on the heels of three top-10 finishes earlier in the season on Asian Tour and three titles on Indian PGTI Tour. “The difference has come because of my approach. I am very positive in my approach,” said Bhullar, whose father, Harbhajan Singh is a former athlete.

Bhullar started the final round one shot ahead of Blyth. He immediately struck rhythm as he birdied second, third and fourth holes to go 20-under. A fourth birdie on sixth meant he had pulled clear at 21-under. Over the next 12 holes, he played most maturely and added one more birdie on par-5 13th and then calmly parred the remaining five holes.
Bhullar, who shot 23 birdies during the week had just one bogey and that came on the first day on the ninth, which was his closing hole for the first round. He played his last 27 holes without a bogey.

The Jakarta win ensures him a two-year exemption and more importantly greater confidence to set higher goals.


Leading scores: 266: Gaganjeet Bhullar (Ind) (69, 68, 62, 67); 268: Adam Blyth (Aus) (67, 66, 67, 68); 269: Thammanoon Srirot (Tha) (67, 70, 66, 66); 270: Ted Oh (Kor) (68, 67, 66, 69).272: Bae Sang-moon (Kor) (76, 64, 64, 68), Artemio Murakami (Phi) (69, 67, 68, 68); 273: Noh Seung-yul (Kor) (72, 68, 66, 67), Darren Beck (Aus) (66, 73, 69, 65).

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