Bhullar leaves Turnberry early, but richer in Major experience

By V. Krishnaswamy, IANS
Friday, July 17, 2009

TURNBERRY - Gaganjeet Bhullar’s attempts to become only the third Indian to play the weekend rounds of a Major championship were swept aside by wet and windy conditions Friday morning, as he went seven-over for the second round and ended at eight-over 148 for the tournament at the 138th British Open.

Bhullar, the youngest-ever Indian at a Major, also added the honour of recording the lowest round on Major debut with his first round 71, but his 77 in second round meant he failed to join the elite company of Jeev Milkha Singh and Jyoti Randhawa, as the only Indians to have played on the weekend at a Major.

Meanwhile, the leaderboard which had the 59-year-old Tom Watson, the oldest player in the field, in lead on opening day, saw 29-year-old Steve Marino take over midway through the second day.

Marino finished the second round at two-under to be five-under for 36 holes, while Watson starting at five-under had slipped to four-under after four holes.

The 21-year-old Bhullar had spent two weeks trying to get acclimatised to the local conditions and learn the nuances of Links golf, but it was in the main tournament that he finally got his lessons and they came the hard way.

With the cut likely at two or three-over, it was curtains for Bhullar, who still said: I would say I am richer in experience rather than disappointed. It was a great lesson in Links golf and hopefully I will be back at St. Andrews next year.

The winds made it very difficult for me to calculate the yardages today. My course management was also not good enough. I often used a driver, when I should have used a 2-Iron or 3-Iron of the tee, Bhullar said.

Bhullar, who twice rallied from four-over to finish at one-over for the first day, was unable to conjure up any great escapes Friday. While he had seven birdies on the first day, he had just one in the second round on the second hole and at that point he was even par for the round, raising visions of him making the cut.

That birdie gave him his only moment of cheer on the second day, for it was at this very hole, he had dropped a triple on first. But that may well have been his last smile for the day, and then as the wind picked up, he slowly but steadily slipped into oblivion.

Bhullar opened in style with a birdie on second and that made even par for the tournament. He stayed there till the fourth and then the battle began.

He dropped a double bogey on the fifth and then had back-to-back bogeyed on the seventh and eighth to turn in three-over 38. On the back nine, he again double bogeyed the 13th and bogeyed the 14th. A final bogey on 18th meant, his card for the day read 77 and eight-over 148 for 36 holes.

This was my first major and it has been a great experience. Ill be going back to play on the Asian Tour, starting with the Indonesia President Invitational next week and the Brunei Open following that, said Bhullar.

I think Ill do well with the experience gained and hopefully lift my maiden title on the Asian Tour, he said.

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