Following a surprisingly meek surrender by two-time champion Jyoti Randhawa, a confident Gaganjeet Bhullar left an indelible mark on the Rs. 80-lakh DLF Masters golf championship here on Sunday.
Against all expectations of a close finish, Bhullar made it virtually a one-man race in the afternoon and won by a whopping five-stroke margin over Anirban Lahiri at the DLF Golf and Country Club.
“Beating Jyoti on his home course, perhaps, makes this triumph as big as the Indonesian Open,” said Bhullar who will carry the country’s hopes in the $1.25 million Hero Honda Indian Open starting here on October 8. On a day that saw only five sub-par scores, Bhullar’s 68 gave him a tally of 15-under 273 and the winner’s cheque for Rs. 12,93,200.
Lahiri, following the days best 66, pushed Ashok Kumar to the third spot after a birdie-birdie finish. In effect, the last two birdies were worth Rs. 3.92 lakh for Lahiri as he received Rs. 8,93,200 and forced Ashok to settle for Rs. 5,01,200.
Bhullar on top
In fact, the triumph also took Bhullar to the top of the Order of Merit. His earnings now stand at Rs. 29.61 lakh. Displaced leader Mukesh Kumar, who missed the ‘cut’ here, is third after Ashok Kumar.
Lahiri, a somewhat surprise runner-up, putted like he has never on this course. After bogeys on the first two holes, Lahiri fired an eagle and four birdies to take the turn at 32. His birdie on the 12th stood negated by the bogey on the next hole. But with two late birdies, Lahiri claimed his biggest cheque at home.
Sunday proved an off day for Randhawa though he found himself in the joint lead with Bhullar once the overnight leader bogeyed the second hole. However, after the next five holes, the gap between the two stood at five strokes with Randhawa finding a bogey thrice in succession before Bhullar birdied twice.
When Bhullar took the turn with a ninth-hole birdie, the race for the title looked well and truly over. “Though I had a good lead at the halfway stage, I was aware of what Jyoti is capable of shooting on this course. But after the 11th hole, I was confident of winning,” shared the champion after winning his fifth title from six starts on the domestic tour this season.
Bhullar’s driving was most impressive on this day. He stroked his putts with confidence with the one from 15 feet on the ninth being the longest of his five birdies.
Gracious in defeat
Randhawa was gracious in defeat and hailed Bhullar as the one youngster to watch out for. “Gaganjeet played exactly how one should play on this course on the final day to win. He is playing great golf and I wish him all the best. I did not play well today. I found the heat too much to bear. Also, the greens in Europe are not as grainy as it is here. I guess, I need to get used to these greens all over again.”
The scores: Gaganjeet Bhullar (68, 68, 69, 68) 273; Anirban Lahiri (71, 70, 71, 66) 278; Ashok Kumar (69, 70, 71, 69) 279; Shamim Khan (73, 66, 69, 72), Jyoti Randhawa (71, 68, 67, 74) 280; Digvijay Singh (69, 68, 71, 74) 282; Harmeet Kahlon (75, 71, 70, 68), S. S.P. Chowrasia (73, 68, 70, 73) 284; Anthony Choat (Aus) (72, 72, 70, 71) 285; Shiv Kapur (74, 69, 72, 71), C. Muniyappa (73, 73, 69, 71) 286; Toran Bikram Shahi (Nep) (76, 66, 68, 77) 287.