Indian golfer Gaganjeet Bhullar breezes past bogey on first hole
A bogey on his opening hole hardly fazed Gaganjeet Bhullar, who proved what matters is how you finish as he stormed to a two-shot lead with an eight-under-par 63 on the opening day of the Venetian Macau Open yesterday.
Strapping and built more like a fast bowler from his cricket-mad country, Indian Bhullar made light of the early flaw with an eagle on his second hole. It set the tone for the rest of the round as he breezed around the Coloane course, coming close to flirting with the course record of 62 set by his countryman Amandeep Johl a few years ago.
"That eagle on the second was a defining moment for me. It changed my whole outlook and game plan. I knew I was hitting the ball well and that lifted me mentally. The rest was easy as I was putting well," Bhullar said.
His late surge saw him displace Thailand's Prom Meesawat, who had occupied the top of the leaderboard for most of the day, after an accomplished six-under 65. Prom was tied with Australian Scott Hend.
Fortune smiled on Bhullar soon after his bogey start. His drive went 370 yards at the par-five second leaving him well within range of a great recovery.
"I can't hit that long, and I think it pitched on the cart path and bounced. I then hit a pitching wedge to 35 feet and caned that putt," he said.
In his last five starts, Bhullar has won one tournament - last month in Taipei - finished second in another and tied for ninth in a third. He carried that form into the opening day of the US$750,000 tournament.
"I hit 15 greens in regulation and I holed a lot of long putts, including two of over 40 feet. This is one of my favourite courses in Asia and it will be lovely to have a victory here," he said.
In 2009, Bhullar finished runner-up to Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand. He will be seeking to go one better on Sunday, and yesterday's breezy start has placed him in pole position.
In July, Australian Hend underwent surgery for a problematic thyroid growth. Having recovered from that, Hend was in full flight, especially on the back nine where he collected five birdies to move into a share of second place with Prom.
Asked what the key was to his performance, Hend said: "HSBC." The top eight players on the Asian Tour Order of Merit will gain automatic entry into November's lucrative US$7million HSBC Champions in Shenzhen. Hend is eighth on the list and he is intent on making sure he remains in the top eight.
"Somebody once said the harder you work the luckier you get. I have been working hard ever since my neck operation and I know if I don't play well, I won't get into the HSBC tournament."
Former world number one and major winner Ian Woosnam showed the old magic is still around as he carded a three-under 68 to lie five shots off the pace. The Welshman, 54, had said making the cut would be an achievement on his first visit to Macau. He seems well on the way to achieving that.
In joint-third place, three shots adrift of Bhullar, were a clutch of four players - Ireland's Niall Turner, Bangladeshi Siddikur, Australian Kieran Pratt and Thai Thongchai Jaidee - all on 66.
Two-time Macau Open champion Zhang Lianwei finished with a 69, while defending champion Chan Yih-shin of Taiwan struggled to a two-over-par round of 73.