Incheon, Korea: India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar recorded his sixth Asian Tour triumph at the Shinhan Donghae Open in style as he overcame a five-shot overnight deficit with a sublime final round of four-under-67 which featured a brilliant display of putting.
Bhullar (68-66-68-67), who was tied fourth at the end of round three on Saturday, ended up with a tournament total of 15-under-269 to register a one-shot victory over Zimbabwean Scott Vincent and local lad Taewoo Kim of South Korea at the US$ 1 million event.
Gaganjeet, who last won on the Asian Tour in 2013, had hit a rough patch over the last two seasons thanks to a wrist injury he suffered in 2014. But the 28-year-old from Kapurthala announced his return into the top league of Asian golf with a clinical performance on Sunday that handed him his seventh international title.
Bhullar began the day on a positive note with a birdie on the second. However, a bogey on the fourth brought him back to level-par for the day. He then gathered momentum with consecutive birdies on the sixth and seventh, the latter being a 15-feet conversion.
Gaganjeet stepped on the accelerator with birdies on the 10th, 12th, 13th and 14th to build an imposing four-shot lead. The strapping six-footer was in prime putting form as he sank a 30-footer on the 10th and two more putts from 12 to 15 feet on the 13th and 14th. He unleashed a terrific tee shot on the par-3 12th which set up a three-feet birdie conversion.
Bhullar had a momentary scare when he bogeyed the 16th and 17th but a par on the closing 18th turned out to be good enough to seal the title as Vincent couldn’t birdie the last to take the match into a playoff even as it drizzled at the Bears Best Cheongna Golf Club.
Bhullar said, “I had no idea that I was leading by three after the 15th. That’s when I looked at the leaderboard for the first time today. When I realized that I was ahead by three, it gave me confidence and I thought I was playing well and I just needed to continue to focus and stick to my routine.
“The goal was to make a good start to the day and I achieved that by being two-under through the front-nine. I kept the momentum going thereafter. The birdies on the 10, 12, 13 and 14 were crucial as it could’ve swung either way on that stretch. I hit most fairways and greens today except for a couple at the end and that was good enough for a win.
“This win means a lot to me. The last time I won was back in 2013. I’ve gone through one of the lowest phases of my career over the last two seasons when I also suffered a wrist injury. I lost my European Tour card and my winner’s status on the Asian Tour in the last two years. I’m glad and proud of myself that I’ve managed to overcome all the difficulties through my hard work and determination. I thank my coach and my family for all their support that helped me in getting my career back on track,” added Bhullar.
Bhullar thus became the second Indian to win the Shinhan Donghae Open after Jeev Milkha Singh who won it back in 1994. The win has propelled Gaganjeet from 61st place to 10th position in the Asian Tour Order of Merit. He is also likely to make major gains in the world rankings where he is currently placed 674th. The rankings will be updated on Monday.
Uttam Singh Mundy, Director, PGTI, said, “On behalf of PGTI, I extend my heartiest congratulations to Gaganjeet Bhullar for his well-deserved victory at the Shinhan Donghae Open. This win signals a welcome return to form for Gaganjeet whose hard work and perseverance have helped him fight his way back into the top bracket of the Asian Tour. We’re proud of Gaganjeet’s performance and wish him all the best for the future.”
Among the other Indians, Khalin Joshi (68-69-69-71) fired a final round of even-par-71 to grab a share of 15th place at seven-under-277 while Jyoti Randhawa (71-71-71-71) who shot four scores of even-par-71, ended tied 54th with a total of even-par-284.
Gaganjeet Bhullar - 7 international wins
Indonesia President Invitational 2009
Asian Tour International 2010
Yeangder Tournament Players Championship 2012
Venetian Macau Open 2012
Indonesia Open 2013
Shinhan Donghae Open 2016
European Challenge Tour
Gujarat Kensville Challenge 2011 (Kensville G & CC)