Bhullar ready for more silverware, Hanson looks to a winning debut at Hero Indian Open
[gallery link="file" order="DESC" orderby="rand"] Bengaluru, India, October 17: In-form Gaganjeet Bhullar insists he is not feeling any pressure ahead of the US$1.25 million Hero Indian Open as he chases a third Asian Tour win this season. Bhullar, who last week was a wire-to-wire winner at the Venetian Macau Open, is quite enjoying the limelight as he leads the local charge at the Karnataka Golf Association course in Bengaluru.
The 49-year-old Hero Indian Open is being staged at the Karnataka Golf Association course for the first time in its storied history. In the past the event has only been held in Delhi or its neighbourhood and Kolkata.
The sponsors, Hero, have taken the tournament to the southern part of the country for the first time to ensure greater promotion of the game.
“I’ve been playing some of the best golf of my life in my career. It is a dream for every Indian player to play and win the Indian Open this tournament. I think I’m one of the few Indian golfers to wear the Hero logo this week as well, so it will be nice to have this one,” said a smiling Bhullar, who is also No. 5 on the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
“I feel the next generation of Indian golfers are ready to take over. The responsibility is on our shoulders (leading the Indian charge with Anirban Lahiri and Himmat Rai in the absence of Jeev Milkha Singh and Arjun Atwal) and we are ready for the challenge,” said Bhullar, who has won four Asian Tour titles in his fledgling career.
Lahiri, who was a colleague of Bhullar in the 2006 Asian Games silver medal winning team, Shiv Kapur, winner of the 2002 Asian Games gold medal, and Rai, a winner on the Asian Tour, are also featuring in the tournament alongside stalwarts like three-time champion, Jyoti Randhawa, who after a long time has no pressure on him.
Add to this in-form players like Shamim Khan, Rashid Khan and Harendra Gupta, who have been playing amazing golf on the domestic Tour, and an Indian winner could well be a strong possibility.
But the Indian contingent, familiar, though they are with conditions at the KGA, which hosts the Indian Open for the first time ever, will have to contend with a strong international starcast that has Ryder Cup player, Peter Hanson of Sweden, ranked 25th in the world, Richie Ramsay of Scotland and defending champion David Gleeson of Australia.
Hanson, third at the Masters this year, was also a winner at the KML Open on the European Tour, while Ramsay won the European Masters the week before.
The 24-year-old Bhullar added, “My game is in a good shape and I’ve started to putt well. There were a few technical mistakes which I made in my posture but I’ve sorted that out. That could be one of the reasons for my two victories.”
Bhullar, is also one of the few Indian to have taken his career earnings past the one million dollar mark and has now made US$1,001,045.
Gleeson uncharacteristically missed eight straight cuts from last year into the 2012 Asian Tour season but is showing glimpse of a comeback after finishing tied 17th at the Venetian Macau Open last week.
“I’ve always played well on courses where you need to place your ball strategically. That doesn’t happen at the start of the year. Most of the courses need you to be a good driver of the ball which I’ve never been,” said the three-time Asian Tour winner. “I went to see a coach for the first time this year to improve my woods off the tees. I think I’ve got that in a position where I can be competitive again,” added Gleeson.
Home favourite Lahiri, a two-time Asian Tour winner, believes this will be his best chance to add his name on the Hero Indian Open trophy as the event is played on his home course.
“The last few events haven’t been great but I’ve found form in patches. There’s no better place to be on your home course and a place where you are comfortable when you are not 100% in your game and looking for things to fall into place,” said Lahiri.
“It is obviously a great feeling to have the national open in Bengaluru and playing on your home course. It is nice to sleep on your own bed and wake up and play early morning. I’m really looking forward to it,” he added.
Ramsay, winner of the Omega European Masters, which is sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour, hopes to overcome jetlag in time to launch a title assault.
The two-time winner in Europe is wary of the strong challenge this week where no more than 40 Asian Tour players from 24 countries are playing.
“I travelled from Scotland on Sunday 6pm and reached India on Monday 6pm local time. I’m just trying to stay awake and that’s tough. I love my sleep and fall asleep all over the place,” said Ramsay.
“There are a lot of good players here and if you don’t focus here, they will try and get one over you,” added the 29-year-old.