‘Hot’ Bhullar confident on eve of British Open

By V. Krishnaswamy, IANS
Wednesday, July 15, 2009

TURNBERRY - The baby face may be a dead giveaway, but Gaganjeet Bhullar’s confidence is that of a man way beyond his 21 years and it also gives no indication of the fact that he is making his Major debut at the 138th edition of the British Open.

While Jeev Milkha Singh has been the flagbearer of Indian golf globally, it would not be incorrect to say that Bhullar is by far the hottest Indian golfer right now. He just cannot get enough of golf right now. He has won four times - three times in India and once at IFQ Qualifiers - and finished in top-10 on three other occasions on the Asian Tour.

He talks about the Ailsa course at Turnberry like he has grown here. “I have played it seven times in the last nine days” he reveals. But he has no expectations. “I am not talking about my expectations, but I can say I am confident and I have played this course in different kinds of wind conditions over the last few days. I have played when the wind was from the north and again when it was coming from the south-east,” he added.

“I know I have been playing well. I wish there were more events,” he said smilingly. “But I have been happy with what I have done here in the last two weeks. I have played at Troon, Prestiwck and now seven rounds at Turnberry.”

Bhullar, widely acknowledged as the new face of Indian golf, and probably Asian golf, came through to the British Open by winning the International Qualifiers at the Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore in April.

In the two-month period March-April, Bhullar was absolutely unstoppable. On the Asian Tour, he rode a streak of three top-10s: he was tied 10th at Singha Thailand Open, tied second at SAIL Open in Gurgaon and tied fifth at Black Mountain Masters in Thailand.

Back in India, Bhullar won three times in three starts in March-April. In between those three wins, he skipped the SRF All India matchplay because he was at the at IFQ qualifiers for the British Open, which he won!

Bhullar won the PGTI Championships at Panchkula and the PGTI Championships at Aamby valley and before that he had won the PGTI Championships in Rambagh, Jaipur.

Bhullar, who picked the 65th and last card on the Asian Tour in 2008, is now 23rd on the Asian Tour Order of Merit and second on the Indian Tour. He went back to the Asian Tour for an event in South Korea in May but pulled out due to flu after the first round.

So, how does he like Links Golf? “I love it. I had played in India at Golden Greens, which is like Links and then in Indonesia in Bali, where it is also a Links-like course, but these last few days I have had a great chance to play real Links,” says Bhullar, who is accompanied by his sports psychologist Pradeep Aggarwal.

“He (Aggarwal) has been a great influence. He has taught me to be patient. He has got me thinking positively and that has helped,” he added.

Talking of Jeev’s influence and his advice before he left Turnberry after pulling out due to a rib muscle injury, Bhullar said, “It is really sad that Jeev sir will not be playing here. I was looking forward to it. He had called me to say ‘Well done’ after I qualified.

“And then when he came here, he played the practice round with me on Monday and gave me some great tips. Before he left, he again called up and told me to play under the wind at this course. I hope I can keep that advise in mind and do well.”

Continuing on Jeev, Bhullar said: “He has been the big inspiration for us younger generation and has always been available for advice.”

Any expectations from the Open? “No,” comes the immediate reply. Clearly, Bhullar does not want to any pressure on himself. “I am not going to say anything on that,” he said with a smile. “I just want to play well. I am feeling good and confident.”

Bhullar paired with Rhys Davies and James Driscoll for the first two rounds and will tee off just past noon.

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