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Bangkok, February 7: India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar produced a brilliant course record eight-under-par 64 to win the season-opening Asian Tour International by one shot on Sunday.
Starting the final round six strokes back, Bhullar reinforced his growing reputation as one of Asia’s brightest prospects with a superb come-from-behind victory, the second of his career, at the Suwan Golf and Country Club.
The 21-year-old Indian sank an eagle and six birdies for an unblemished card and edged out Korea’s Hwang Inn-choon, who signed for a 69 for second place in the US$300,000 event.
Japan’s Tetsuji Hiratsuka, runner-up last year, took third place with a 68 while overnight leader Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand carded a disappointing 73 to finish tied fourth with Jbe Kruger of South Africa, three behind the winner.
“It’s amazing. I have no words to describe it, I’m totally speechless. When I woke up this morning, I just wanted to shoot a good number. I never ever thought I was going to shoot a 64 and win by one. It’s like a dream coming true. My first event of the year and winning at the start of the season will give me a lot of confidence,” said Bhullar, who pocketed US$47,550.
Bhullar’s title charge was sparked by an eagle at the par five second hole when an eight iron approach stopped three feet of the flag. He nailed four more birdies to turn in 30 and added two more birdies on 15, for the outright lead, and 18 to clinch a memorable triumph with his winning total of 11-under-par 277.
Hwang, who was also chasing his second Asian Tour win, was in the hunt down the straight after overcoming a double bogey on 11 with birdies on 14 and 15. But an errant drive into the hazard on 17 for bogey left him with the tall order of having to eagle the par five last hole to force a play-off which he could only birdie.
Bhullar said: “After 15 where I made a good curling putt, I told myself to make par on 16 and 17 and make birdie on 18. Everything happened the way I decided. On 18, it was amazing. I told myself that the putt was to win the tournament.
“It was a crucial one as I had missed the same putt last the two days from the nearly same line. I had a bit of an idea that it would come from the right. I just got lucky. I’m sure my confidence will go up a long way. I’m looking forward to next week (Avantha Masters). It’s a big event and I love the DLF course as I’ve won there twice (on the local circuit). Going back to play in front of the home crowd will give me a great sense of achievement.”
Hwang turned in 33 to lead the field by one but rued costly mistakes on 11 and 17. “I don’t know what happened with those dropped shots. I kept finding the hazard. On 11, I tried to hook my ball around the tree but it went straight into the water and then the same thing again on 17 when I hooked my drive into the water,” said the Korean.
“I knew I needed an eagle to force a play-off at the last and I hit a good utility wood into the green but had a really tough and long putt. There was no pressure at all and I guess 64 was a really good score by Gaganjeet,” said Hwang.
The burly Kiradech, who had held at least a share of the lead from the opening round, cut a forlorn figure after staggering home with two birdies, one bogey and one double bogey as his hopes of a maiden title vanished.
“I played some good golf and hit many good shots. I made some good putts but kept missing the lines. My caddie and I couldn’t read some lines. On the 16th hole, I was thinking of attacking the pin which was in a difficult location. We were coming down the last few holes and I wanted to do the something. Finishing third, fourth or fifth is the same as my goal was to win the tournament,” said the 20-year-old Kiradech.

Asian Tour

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