Macao, 22 Oct 2017

Unstoppable Bhullar romps home to eighth Asian Tour title at Macao Open

Sandhu continues hot streak with tied second finish

India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar romped home to a three-shot victory at the Macao Open to bag his eighth Asian Tour title. As a result Bhullar etched his name on the Macao Open trophy for the second time having previously won the event in 2012.

Gaganjeet (64-65-74-68) was unstoppable on the final day of the US$500,000 event as he brought in a card of three-under-68 to end up with a winning total of 13-under-271 at the Macau Golf and Country Club.

In more good news for India, Ajeetesh Sandhu (66-67-71-70), fresh from his twin triumphs in Taiwan and Japan over the last two weeks, delivered a last round of one-under-70 to grab a share of second place at 10-under-274 and make it two Indians in the top-3.

Ajeetesh shared the runner-up spot with Angelo Que (69) of the Philippines. 

Gaganjeet Bhullar, the overnight leader by one shot, put behind the disappointment of an ordinary third round effort of three-over-74 as he bounced back in round four with seven birdies at the cost of two bogeys and a double-bogey.

Bhullar started the day with a bogey to concede his outright lead and slip into the joint lead along with compatriot Sandhu. But he then rallied with six birdies over the next 12 holes to build a healthy five-shot lead to all but run away with the title.

Thereafter, Gaganjeet’s subsequent bogey and double-bogey on the 14th and 16th couldn’t stop him from marching to his first Asian Tour title in about a year. He finally registered a three-stroke victory margin thanks to his birdie on the closing 18th.

The strapping 29-year-old from Kapurthala in Punjab has now equalled Arjun Atwal and Jyoti Randhawa’s record of most wins (8) by an Indian on the Asian Tour.

It was also Gaganjeet’s third wire-to-wire victory of his career following the Macao Open 2012 and the Indonesia Open 2013. Bhullar had last tasted international success just about a year back at the Asian Tour’s Bank BRI-JCB Indonesia Open 2016.

Bhullar now has nine international wins to his credit including one on the European Challenge Tour. Interestingly, it was the third time that an Indian won the Macao Open. Besides Gaganjeet having won it in 2012, Anirban Lahiri had also won it in 2014.
Bhullar, the first player to win eight titles on the Asian Tour before turning 30, said, "I was absolutely blank after the bogey on the first hole. After that I just stuck to my plan and took my opportunities. Honestly it got simple after the bogey. I hit the ball well and made my putts. It was a tough start to the day but the last four days have been really hard. This is probably the only tournament where I’ve played in such windy conditions in all four rounds.

"Every time you win wire-to-wire on the Asian Tour, you learn a lot. I want to grow as a player and you learn so much from winning and even losing. I’m glad that this is my eighth Asian Tour title and I’ve got so many more events to play on the Asian Tour. The next goal is to start thinking and preparing on the next victory.

"I started working with my coach, Noah Montgomery, in the summer and we’ve been working really hard on my game. He changed a few technical aspects in my swing and that’s really helped me. Overall the attitude and my point of view towards the game and winning have changed. It has been my childhood dream to win the Order of Merit.

"I’ve seen my heroes Arjun (Atwal), Jyoti (Randhawa) and Jeev (Milkha Singh) win the Order of Merit. I would love to do the same and the goal for the rest of the season is to play like how I’m playing and stay in the positive mood," added Gaganjeet, who moved up to 13th in the 2017 Asian Tour money list post his win.

Bhullar is now the fourth Indian after SSP Chawrasia, Shiv Kapur and Ajeetesh Sandhu, to win on the Asian Tour this season.

Ajeetesh Sandhu, who was overnight tied second, one off the lead, had an encouraging start to the day when he sank two birdies on the first four holes. Ajeetesh, the joint leader early in the day, soon slipped out of contention after a string of bogeys on the seventh, 10th and 14th. He however managed to finish joint second after a late flourish which saw him birdie the 16th and 18th.

Ajeetesh said, "I would have taken this result at the start of the week. Gaganjeet Bhullar played really good today so I’m happy with the result. It has been a good week and it was especially nice to play in the last group in the last two days. It was tense but I’m happy with the way it went.

"I started off pretty well but missed a few chances in the middle of the round. That pretty much threw me off the game. I was playing catch-up after that but all in all a good round and week. I’m playing really well and I want to continue what I’m doing."
Rashid Khan shot a stunning final round of seven-under-64, the day’s best, to climb 19 places to tied fifth at six-under-278. His presence in tied fifth made it three Indians in the top-6 this week.

Chiragh Kumar of India also finished inside the top-20. He was tied 19th at even-par-284.

Shubhankar Sharma was a further stroke back in tied 24th.

Among the other Indians, Chikkarangappa was 33rd at three-over-287, Himmat Rai was tied 58th at eight-over-292, Khalin Joshi was tied 66th at 10-over-294 and M Dharma was 70th at 18-over-302.
Picture Courtesy: Asian Tour

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