Bhullar sets sights on Merit challenge

Like many of his generation who grew up playing golf, Gaganjeet Bhullar looked up to a host of golf greats to inspire him to reach the upper echelons of the game.

Golf News: Gaganjeet Bhullar

Korea's K.J. Choi and American Ben Curtis are names that resonate well with Bhullar.

And closer to home, it is the likes of Jeev Milkha Singh, a six-time Asian Tour winner that has set the benchmark for success for the 24-year-old.

Bhullar's victory at last weekend's Venetian Macau Open showed that his march towards the top is well on track.

With his idol, Singh winning the Order of Merit title twice in 2006 and 2008, Bhullar does not have to look far as he strives to become Asia's best player this season.

"Jeev has set targets for us. I would say we need to work really hard. The two wins, multiple category right now, winning the Order of Merit would be nice," said Bhullar, , who moved to fifth place on the Order of Merit after earning US$118,875 from his fourth Asian Tour victory in Macau.

"There're a lot of big weeks coming up. Singapore, Hong Kong, Johor and the Indian Open, Obviously, it's not that far (from his position on the Order of Merit) and a few good weeks can jump my ranking to number one," added Bhullar

While Singh still leads the title count, Bhullar believes that the gap will be narrowed in time to come.

"Obviously what Jeev has done, he has won about 13 international titles and I've only won four. The number is increasing. Jeev is our idol and one day we'll try to catch up," said Bhullar.

The Indian is confident that he can take over the mantle and continue to put India on the world map when his illustrious compatriots decide to call time on their career.

"I guess the next responsibility of Indian golf is on our shoulders, including Himmat Rai and Anirban Lahiri. We are the future of Indian golf. We have to prove to the people that the next generation is ready to take over," said Bhullar.

Bhullar may be the man of the moment, but he knows he needs to play catch-up if he wants to be mentioned in the same breath as world number one Rory McIlroy.

"I've played junior golf with Rory McIlroy and look at Rory, he's world number one. If you look at that, I'm really slow. There's a lot of golf left. The next few years, I will take my game to the next level," said Bhullar

"I have thought about the European Tour and PGA Tour. Last year, I tried the PGA Tour Qualifying School. But this year, I'm not exempt. It didn't make sense for me to skip the big tournaments in Asia as I would lose my world ranking points. So it's better I play well in these tournaments, gain world ranking points and go straight to the PGA Tour," added Bhullar.

With golf being a global sport that is played in all four corners of the globe today, the four-time Asian Tour winner is hopeful that he will attract the attention of the galleries in the United States when he eventually piles his trade there.

"I played with K.J. Choi and Ben Curtis in Korea and they gave me some good tips. K.J. told me that I have the game for the PGA Tour and it's just a matter of time. I just need to have my mental believe that one day I'll be there. I'll just wait for that day," said Bhullar.

Australia's Marcus Fraser continues to lead the rankings with US$472,094, followed by South Africa's Jbe Kruger on US$453,588 and Japan's Masanori Kobayashi with US$400,289.

The Asian Tour heads to Bengaluru for the US$1.25 million Hero Indian Open where title holder David Gleeson of Australia will lead an elite cast along with hometown heroes that include Lahiri, Bhullar and C. Muniyappa at the Karnataka Golf Asociation (KGA) course this week.

ASIAN TOUR ORDER OF MERIT (TOP-20)
Pos Player Earnings (US$)
1 Marcus FRASER (AUS) $481,394.61
2 Jbe KRUGER (RSA) $453,588.59
3 Masanori KOBAYASHI (JPN) $400,289.75
4 Thaworn WIRATCHANT (THA) $348,906.51
5 Gaganjeet BHULLAR (IND) $342,712.81
6 David LIPSKY (USA) $278,097.98
7 Prom MEESAWAT (THA) $228,937.64
8 SIDDIKUR (BAN) $217,942.82
9 Scott HEND (AUS) $206,244.25
10 Shiv KAPUR (IND) $181,050.28
11 Felipe AGUILAR (CHI) $174,911.91
12 Anirban LAHIRI (IND) $171,097.96
13 Antonio LASCUNA (PHI) $145,631.63
14 Berry HENSON (USA)$135,786.68
15 Jonathan MOORE (USA) $122,927.47
16 TSAI Chi-huang (TPE) $120,000.00
17 K.J. CHOI (KOR) $118,875.00
18 Kiradech APHIBARNRAT (THA) $117,102.97
19 Scott BARR (AUS) $115,918.43
20 Juvic PAGUNSAN (PHI) $114,739.50



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