Bhullar aims for back-to-back titles in Macau

Reigning champion hopes to climb up Asian Order of Merit when he tees off at the Macau Open on Thursday against a star-studded field

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 October, 2013, 2:37pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 October, 2013, 2:37pm

Defending champion Gaganjeet Bhullar will aim to reignite his campaign for the Asian Tour Order of Merit crown at his “lucky” course when he tees off in one of the most competitive fields gathered for the US$800,000 Venetian Macau Open on Thursday.

“I have been playing good this season but I’m still waiting to win a tournament and I hope this will be the one,” said India’s Bhullar, who last year won the tournament in outstanding style, recording a wire-to-wire victory at the Macau Golf and Country Club in Coloane.

“I like this course. I regard it as my lucky one and I hope I can break my duck this season and win here on Sunday. But it isn’t going to be easy ... it is a stronger field than last year. A victory here will be a perfect way to also start my bid to win the Order of Merit. The tail end of the season is crucial with so many big-money events and doing well here is going to be crucial.”

Bhullar, who carded a two-stroke victory last year, is lying in third place in the Asian Tour money-list race. Although he has still not won a tournament in 2013, he has amassed US$279,193 in prize money and is just over US$400,000 behind leader Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand and second-placed Australian Scott Hend, who is about US$120,000 in front of Bhullar.

“It might seem a big gap but if I can win a couple of events over the next couple of months, this will close,” added the 25-year-old Bhullar.

He will need to be at its best with the tournament having attracted four-time major champion Ernie Els of South Africa, as well as a clutch of former Asian Order of Merit champions, including compatriots Arjun Atwal, Jyoti Randhawa and Jeev Milkha Singh, Thai duo Thaworn Wiratchant and Thongchai Jaidee, and China’s number one Liang Wenchong.

“With so many big names, this is the perfect tournament to showcase your game,” Bhullar said. “Just imagine defeating Ernie Els, who has been a long-time idol of mine. I hope I will be playing alongside him in the last flight this weekend.”

But while the marquee names will draw attention, Hend is likely to be among those who can pose a real threat. The Australian is the in-form player and will be looking to add a third title to his stellar season, which includes wins in the Chiangmai Golf Classic and the Mercuries Taiwan Masters.

Also in the fray is China’s elder statesmen Zhang Lianwei, who is the only man to have successfully defended his title in Macau with back-to-back wins in 2001 and 2002.

“It is going to be fun. The course looks great and the greens are slick. All the players love coming to Macau and I hope it is another memorable visit for me,” Bhullar added.