Sentosa, Singapore: Chinese Taipei’s Lu Wei-chih and Gaganjeet Bhullar of India delivered feel-good comeback victories on Sunday, marking a welcome return into the Asian Tour champion’s club following years of self-doubt.
Lu, 37, and Bhullar, 28 were victorious at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters and Shinhan Donghae Open in Korea respectively as their wins propelled them into position to qualify for the CIMB Classic in Malaysia later this month and also a shot at getting into the WGC-HSBC Champions in China.
Four years ago, Lu, now a four-time Asian Tour winner, underwent brain surgery to remove a non-malignant tumour which put him out of action for close to a year. Although he posted only one top-10 in the subsequent seasons upon his return, Lu was simply relieved he could compete again after his major health scare.
“After the surgery, I took things slowly. I started step by step. Can you imagine, after the surgery, the doctor said I couldn’t even sneeze!” said Lu, who earned US$160,000 to move up to 11th place on the Order of Merit.
“I took things slow. I started by hitting 100 balls and after that, I blanked out. It was so tiring. At that time, I thought I couldn’t play golf anymore. But my family pushed me. My wife, my parents kept motivating me to keep fighting. I’m here today because of them. The victory is for them as well. I’m blessed to have them in my life.
“It means a lot to me to win this tournament. After the surgery, I thought I couldn’t play golf anymore so to be a winner again is amazing.”
Bhullar endured a similar road. At the end of 2013, he was already a five-time Asian Tour winner at the age of 25 before suffering a ligament tear in his left wrist in 2014. Like Lu, the Indian’s comeback was slow, with only one top-10 to show for in the following two seasons but with a dose of self-belief and determination, he ensured a stylish return into the winner’s circle by overcoming a five-shot deficit in the last day.
“This is the best I’ve ever played. After I got injured, I was struggling a lot. I lost my winner’s category status last year and I put in a lot of hard work into my game this year. It’s great and I know it’s going to take some time for this win to sink in,” said Bhullar, who earned US$194,400 to move up to 10th position on the Order of Merit.
“I was riding high on confidence in 2012 and my highest world ranking was 82 in the world. I played in Europe for two years and then got injured. I had to sit out for four months and undergo rehabilitation for another three to four months. My world rankings dropped to a low 700-plus but I had lots of will power and determination to get back into shape. At the end of the day, I’m glad I won this tournament.”
Australian Scott Hend solidified his position atop the rankings with a tied fourth finish at the Shinhan Donghae Open which was making a welcome return onto the Asian Tour Schedule. The big-hitting Australia, a two-time winner this season, has now earned US$763,252, followed by countryman Marcus Fraser on US$658,203. Korea’s Jeunghun Wang is third with US$484,386.
The Asian Tour heads to the US$750,000 BNI Indonesian Masters presented by Zurich this week followed by the US$1.1 million Venetian Macao Open next week. The leading 10 players after Macao will qualify for the US$7 million CIMB Classic while the leading four not otherwise exempt will qualify for the US$9.5 million WGC-HSBC Champions.
Asian Tour Order of Merit – Top-20
Pos Player Order of Merit (US$)
1. Scott HEND (AUS) 763,252
2. Marcus FRASER (AUS) 658,203
3. Jeunghun WANG (KOR) 484,386
4. CHAN Shih-chang (TPE) 455,657
5. Miguel TABUENA (PHI) 450,176
6. Soomin LEE (KOR) 348,724
7. S.S.P. CHAWRASIA (IND) 316,017
8. Yuta IKEDA (JPN) 292,849
9. Younghan SONG (KOR) 272,757
10. Gaganjeet BHULLAR (IND) 243,462
11. LU Wei-chih (TPE) 211,628
12. Piya SWANGARUNPORN (THA) 202,080
13. Shaun NORRIS (RSA) 176,621
14. K.T. KIM (KOR) 169,233
15. Siddikur RAHMAN (BAN) 168,880
16. Thitiphun CHUAYPRAKONG (THA) 165,052
17. Anirban LAHIRI (IND) 153,920
18. Rahil GANGJEE (IND) 153,371
19. Thanyakon KHRONGPHA (THA) 148,120
20. Phachara KHONGWATMAI (THA) 144,721