Mandiri Indonesia Open: Bhullar hopes to get push from record hat-trick of titles

Gaganjeet Bhullar’s record in the Mandiri Indonesia Open is second to none. He clinched the title for a record third-time last year. Ahead of this week’s tournament, which starts on Thursday, Aug. 2, at the renowned Pondok Indah Golf Course, he says he will look for inspiration from those remarkable performances.

“You know that success will inspire me a lot,” said the 35-year-old from Amritsar.

“They basically will remind me of all the good shots, all the good moments I’ve had in Indonesia and I’m just hoping that I will play as good as I played last year.”

Gaganjeet Bhullar of India [photo credit: Graham Uden/ Asian Tour]
Gaganjeet Bhullar of India [photo credit: Graham Uden/ Asian Tour]

Having triumphed in 2013 and 2016, the latter also at Pondok Indah, a reinvigorated Bhullar, fully recovered from a bad bout of COVID at the start of the year, made it a third title last season by storming to a two-shot victory over compatriot Rashid Khan and England’s Steve Lewton.

Bhullar was at his imperious best on the last day on the Robert Trent Jones Jnr-designed layout, carding a bogey-free seven-under-par 65 for a tournament total of 20-under.

“I remember clearly pretty much every hole. I got off to a really good start. I was paired with Rashid Khan and Atiruj Winaicharoenchai and I remember those two guys they also played well actually but I got off to a good start,” said the Indian, who was marking his return to his home continent after four years focusing on Europe and who dedicated his triumph to his 11-month-old daughter.

“I was driving the ball well, I didn’t miss any fairways on Sunday, hit my iron shots on the green and I think I just putted well. Once you’re on the positive mojo it just multiplies over and over. I’m glad I just closed it well and that was another victory under the belt.”

He has started this year slowly by his own high standards and is currently 50th on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, having played eight of the 10 events so far, with his best result coming on home ground at The DGC Open presented by Mastercard, where he tied for sixth.

However, he is hoping that his recent break from the game will help get him back on track.

“I basically took two months off, just over two months, I think close to nine weeks off, and this was the first time I actually got such a long break ever since I’ve turned pro in the last 17 years,” he said.

“I was actually looking forward to this break and there were so many things which I’ve worked on during my off season from my fitness right to my driving speed to my playing ability.

“I played so many rounds on the golf course with a mindset of scoring well, I was mentally fatigued, so I personally feel that this break was much needed, and I have utilized it in a great way, in a structured manner. Now, I’m actually mentally and physically prepared and ready for the second half.”

He plans to play pretty much all the events from here on in, which will be at least 14 more, with this week’s event signifying the commencement of the second-half of the season.

His first victory on the Asian Tour also came in Indonesia at the President Invitational in 2009. That win set in a motion an outstanding career in Asia, which has also seen him claim the Macau Open twice.

“The majority of the golf courses in Indonesia and Thailand and Malaysia all really suit my style of play and over the years I’ve just felt very comfortable, and maybe it’s something to do with the weather, I feel very comfortable playing in hot and humid weather,” said the Indian, his country’s number one amateur in 2004 and 2005.

“Golf, it’s a game of clicks, one thing leads to the next. One good shot will keep on making a new thread of good shots, so I think that has happened over the past few years and that was one of the reasons why I’ve won their multiple times.”

Bhullar will have his work cut out for him this week though with a strong field in attendance, led by Filipino Miguel Tabuena, second on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, and Thailand’s Sadom Kaewkanjana and Gunn Charoenkul as well as Taichi Kho from Hong Kong – all ranked in the top 10.

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