Gaganjeet Bhullar. Pic: Paul Lakatos/ Asian Tour.
Hua Hin, Thailand, March 6: Gaganjeet Bhullar was on fire as he cracked a bogey free eight-under to zoom into the Top-5 of the International Series Thailand at Black Mountain Golf Club today. Bhullar, a nine-time winner on the Asian Tour, was thrilled with the finish as he played in South-East Asia after a gap of 24 months.
Bhullar, one of the 15 Indians in the field, last had a Top-5 in March 2021 in Qatar on the European Tour. “Coming back to the Asian Tour for the first time since Malaysia in 2020, it was great to finish in such a manner (with 64) and get into Top-5,” said Bhullar.
American Sihwan Kim (65) finally secured his first victory as a professional after over a decade long wait. The in-form 33 year old, who has been in the final pairing on Sunday at three of the last six Asian Tour events, fired an inspired nine-under-par 63 to beat Thailand’s great hope of the future Phachara Khongwatmai by two strokes. Kim totalled 26-under, while Phachara, the overnight leader, shot 68 and was second at 24-under.
Karandeep Kochhar (72) had a roller coaster of a day with four birdies, an eagle and six bogeys and ended T-16 at 17-under, after holding a share of the lead at one point in the third round.
Of the other Indians Ajeetesh Sandhu (68) and Honey Baisoya (70) finished T-32 at 15-under, while Aman Raj (70) was T-41st at 13-under. Viraj Madappa (72) was T-59 at 9-under, while S Chikkarangappa (69) was T-63 at 6-under in the low scoring tournament.
Bhullar added, “It is absolutely amazing. I’m back on the Southeast Asian soil after the gap of 24 months. In the beginning of this year it was quite a struggle for me. I had COVID and then it took me a while to recover from it.”
He went on, “But, otherwise, you know, everything is fine game is right now. Coming back to Thailand, it really inspires me. I have won here in the past and I had shot a course record of nine-under par, so I was trying to match that score. I’ve been enjoying myself.”
When asked if he could visualise a score like and a finish like this a month ago he said, “Actually yes because this course really suits by my distance. I really like the layout. I was expecting myself to play well. And that’s what I did.”
South African Ian Snyman and Itthipat Buranatanyarat from Thailand finished two shots in Tied-third after rounds of 64 and 67 respectively.
Kim, who turned professional in 2011, has recorded eight top-four results on the Asian Tour since 2018, including two runner-up finishes. This latest win was the culmination of a fine run of form recently which has seen him finish joint fourth at the Blue Canyon Phuket Championship, fourth in the SMBC Singapore Open, and tied second in the Royal’s Cup last week.
“To get that monkey off your back is more of a relief, and happiness, I guess. I know I had it in me, but I guess I just stayed diligent throughout my career, and here I am,” said Kim, who earned a cheque for US$270,000 and moved to the top of the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
The Asian Tour heads to The DGC Open next. The inaugural event is being played at Delhi Golf Club from March 24 to 27.