Kuala Lumpur, December 2: Indian star Gaganjeet Bhullar savoured a fifth Asian Tour victory at the Indonesia Open on Sunday before turning his attention to the inaugural EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM next March.
Still only 25, Bhullar produced a measured performance in Jakarta to win his first tournament of the season which pushed him up to fourth place on the latest Asian Tour’s Order of Merit with US$462,378.
With the top four Asian players at the end of the 2013 season qualifying for Team Asia to face Europe in the Ryder Cup-styled EurAsia Cup at Glenmarie Golf and Country Club in Malaysia, the supremely talented Bhullar is poised to make the Asian team on his own merit.
Current number one Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, who leads the rankings with US$1.1 million, is almost assured of securing a place in Team Asia while third-ranked Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh (US$486,667) and fifth ranked Anirban Lahiri of India (US$407,801) currently occupy the top-four Asian slots. Australian Scott Hend is second on the merit list with US$569,464.
“I would like to qualify for the Asian team in the EurAsia Cup next year. That’s my goal now,” said Bhullar after cruising to a three-shot victory.
“Before this, I actually thought I was slightly out of the race but looking at the Order of Merit now, I am definitely in it. It’s the first EurAsia Cup ever and I would love to be a part of the Asian team,” added the Indian, who picked up a winner’s cheque of US$135,000.
Bhullar’s season has been hit-and-miss. After starting the year with a second place finish at the Avantha Masters on home soil, he failed to register another top-10 on the Asian Tour until his Jakarta high where he led from start to finish. He entered the Indonesia Open after finishing last in 60th place at the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf in Royal Melbourne but he kept his chin up despite his recent lack of results.
“I wasn’t feeling confident with my game coming to this week actually. I haven’t had much success but I know my game was up there and winning is just a matter of time. I waited so long for my fifth win and this is my 11th consecutive event already. I’ve been playing so many tournaments and mentally, I was exhausted. Indonesia is one of my favourite places as I won my first title on the Asian Tour here,” said Bhullar.
“I finished last at the World Cup and I wanted to prove to myself that I can still play well. I believed in myself. My family was there with me in Melbourne last week and they gave me a lot of encouragement. Mentally, I was ready to win. Golf is a funny game. I just felt I was ready to take on the best players out here. My ball striking is good. I knew the win would come.”
The 23-year-old Nicholas Fung of Malaysia is also eyeing a strong finish to his 2013 Asian tour campaign to earn a chance of featuring in the EurAsia Cup, which will pit the best 10 Asian players against 10 players from Europe.
His superb joint runner-up finish in the Indonesia Open has already secured his Asian Tour card for 2014 after he rose to 36th place on the Order of Merit with US$97,483, thanks to a cheque of US$64,875. Two weeks ago, he finished fifth in the inaugural Resorts World Manila Masters and the Malaysian is poised to break into the world’s top-250 when the latest world rankings is released later on Monday.
“My goal is definitely to qualify for the EurAsia Cup next year. It’s a big event and it will be held in my home country. I definitely hope I can qualify for it. I would really love to represent the Asian team and bring honour to my country if the Asian team wins,” said Fung, who started the year ranked 1,428th in the world.
The slightly built Malaysian is also leading the Asian Development Tour Order of Merit following one victory and four top-five finishes in 2013, and he credited playing on the region’s secondary tour for sharpening his professional teeth.
“I’m very happy with my performance in Indonesia. It’s really good to see my name up on the leaderboard amongst the other experienced players. I am glad I managed to get into top-60 and secure my card,” he said.
Bangladeshi Siddikur did not quite push Bhullar in the final round but his fourth place finish will go a long way to ensure that he plays his way into the inaugural EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM.
“One of my aims next year would be to qualify for the EurAsia Cup. It’s great to see such big events happening in Asia. I think I should be able to qualify. It would be an honour if I can represent Asia. I am excited about it and I am looking forward to it,” he said.
The top-four Asian players from the final 2013 Asian Tour Order of Merit will qualify for Team Asia while the leading three available Asian players from the Official World Golf Ranking will also be selected for the team. There will be one playing Asian captain and two captain’s picks.
ASIAN TOUR ORDER OF MERIT (TOP-20)
Pos Player Order of Merit
Kiradech APHIBARNRAT (THA) 1,117,074
Scott HEND (AUS) 569,464
Siddikur RAHMAN (BAN) 486,667
Gaganjeet BHULLAR (IND) 462,378
Anirban LAHIRI (IND) 407,801
LIANG Wen-chong (CHN) 398,798
BAEK Seuk-hyun (KOR) 323,743
Shiv KAPUR (IND) 270,176
Thongchai JAIDEE (THA) 262,697
Wade ORMSBY (AUS) 213,349.84
S.S.P. CHOWRASIA (IND) 193,936
Chapchai NIRAT (THA) 192,595
Angelo QUE (PHI) 190,281
Prom MEESAWAT (THA) 177,060
Jyoti RANDHAWA (IND) 176,413
Prayad MARKSAENG (THA) 173,558
Berry HENSON (USA) 164,401
Thaworn WIRATCHANT (THA) 159,787
KIM Gi-whan (KOR) 159,330
Pariya JUNHASAVASDIKUL (THA) 140,004