Yangon, Myanmar: India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar and Jeev Milkha Singh are geared up to challenge for the US$750,000 Leopalace21 Myanmar Open title next week.
The powerful Bhullar will be amongst the leading contenders after winning twice on the Asian Tour last season while two-time Asian number one Singh hopes a long-awaited return to the Golden Land will deliver another piece of silverware to his trophy cabinet.
The Indian duo will be joined by other leading names including K.T. Kim of Korea, who won three times in Japan last year, reigning Japan Golf Tour number one Yuta Ikeda and Thai rising star Pavit Tangkamolprasert at the Pun Hlaing Golf Club from January 26 to 29.
Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand, a two-time Asian Tour Order of Merit champion, will also feature in the popular event alongside last year’s multiple winner Chan Shih-chang of Chinese Taipei in the event co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour. South African star Shaun Norris has confirmed he will defend his crown in what is the second leg of the Asian Tour’s 2017 season.
Bhullar, who finished 10th on the final Order of Merit last year, is hoping to catch fire again early in the season to maintain his hot form.
“I’ve worked really hard in pre-season. I ended the second half of 2016 on a very positive note by winning twice and it was great to win again. There was a lot of positivity around the end of the year and the hard work paid off. It feels really good,” said the 28-year-old Bhullar, who is a seven-time winner.
He remembers competing at the Pun Hlaing course in 2010 where he finished tied 43rd and believes the co-sanction programme with the Japan Golf Tour was another great way for Asian golfers to develop their careers.
“It’s always a great atmosphere in Myanmar. We’re heading to a golf course which will be fun. It’s a challenging course with a lot wind. I looked at the entry lists yesterday and I saw a lot of tournament winners from the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour will be there. So, it’s going to be stiff competition between players from the two Tours. These sort of tournaments will give us a great opportunity to showcase our talents and take our games to the next level,” said Bhullar.
The Indian won the Shinhan Donghae Open in Korea and Bank BRI-JCB Indonesia Open within a span of two months towards the end of last year but he is not resting on his laurels.
“I would like to further improve on my putting. I looked at my stats and I’ve been improving over the past few years but under the gun, I would love to improve on the pressure-making putts. it’s something which I will be working hard at it in this new season,” he said.
Countryman Singh will return to Myanmar for the first time in 12 years to headline the tournament. The 45-year-old is excited to challenge for a seventh Asian Tour win after showing glimpses of his best form towards the end of 2016 which included a runner-up finish behind Bhullar in Indonesia.
“I’m feeling really good physically. The more weeks I play, the better I’m going to get. I’m really excited to be back this year because I worked really hard on my physical side. I worked a lot with my trainer and physiotherapist. When you work out and you feel fit, you look forward to playing golf,” he said.
Singh last played in Myanmar in 2005 and has fond memories of competing in the country. “Hospitality was amazing in Myanmar and I really enjoyed myself there. I’m looking forward to going back. The country is close to home so I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.
Like Bhullar, he believes players from the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour will benefit from the Leopalace21 Myanmar Open.
“I think it is fantastic and good for the region. It is great to see the Asian Tour having co-sanction events with the Japan Golf Tour. I think it is a good mix of things. It is a good opportunity for the Asian players to try and get a full card on the Japan Golf Tour and play on both Tours,” said Singh, who has won four times in Japan.
The Leopalace21 Myanmar Open will enjoy global television coverage for the first time in its history as the event will be broadcast live to over 180 countries with a potential reach of 750 million households.