The two golfing pros from completely different backgrounds with strikingly different styles of play may not have necessarily set the courses afire like Jeev did, but they generated enough interest to be billed as the ones to watch out in the coming season.
The 21-year-old Bhullar, who only managed to seal his 2009 Asian Tour playing rights by the skin of his teeth, showcased his talent first with a tied-second finish at the SAIL Open in New Delhi before becoming the youngest Indian to bag an Asian Tour title after winning the Indonesia President Invitational. Touted as the one of the rising stars, the big-hitting Kapurthala lad nearly made it back-to-back wins a week later at Brunei, a missed birdie putt during the play-off spoiling his chances.
Bhullar also emerged runner-up at Macau Open and recorded six top-ten finishes in the Asian Tour as the youngster surged to a career-high sixth on the Order of Merit, a whopping jump of 59 places from last year. Bhullar dominated the PGTI circuit too recording four wins, thereby strengthening the foundation for his rapidly growing career.
Muniyappa, the 31-year-old caddie-turned-pro from a very modest background, surprised many when he lifted the nation’s biggest golfing event — the Indian Open. Playing in his rookie Asian season, Muniyappa had a disastrous start after failing to make the cut four times in his first five attempts. Playing on borrowed money, the Bangalorean scripted a dramatic turnaround when he fired a course record of nine-under in the third round at Brunei to finish tied-13th.
Following some decent shows in Malaysia, Thailand and Taiwan, Muniyappa finally pocketed the biggest purse of his life at New Delhi — almost Rs 90 lakh — when he sunk an eight-foot birdie in the first play-off hole to seal his maiden Asian title, sparking off numerous tales on his rags-to-riches journey that also saw him winning the ‘Rookie of the Year’ prize.
Jeev had a disappointing year, slipping from 35 to 58 in the World rankings while the emergence of another talent in Anirban Lahiri, appreciated by Jeev himself, was heartening. The youngster brought home five Asian top-ten finishes and two titles on the Indian tour towards the end of season should boost his confidence.
Indian fans had more to cheer when it was announced that the country would host three Asian Tour events next season.