Bhullar, Lahiri set to tee off in star-studded CIMB Classic

Kuala Lumpur: Gaganjeet Bhullar and Anirban Lahiri will tee off in a star-studded field that includes 14-time Major winner, Tiger Woods at the USD 6.1 million CIMB Classic, starting here on Thursday.

Bhullar and Lahiri have qualified for this special 48-man tournament by the virtue of having been in the top-10 at the cut-off date two weeks ago.

Lahiri has been paired with Kyle Stanley, while Bhullar goes out with Robert Garrigus. Marcus Fraser, the top player on Asian Tour Order of Merit currently, goes out with Woods.

Bhullar has this season won twice on the Asian Tour, while Lahiri has won once.

Lahiri, who tied for fifth at the Hero Indian Open last week, said it would be an great opportunity to play with the PGA Tour players.

"I think it is a great event to play in and have the opportunity to play with the PGA TOUR players. Tiger Woods is here as well and it is a chance to get more World Ranking points.

"I think we have a great chance to win. We are used to the conditions here in Malaysia where it is really hot. I think it is something that works in our advantage. The golf course is typically Malaysian grasses that we are used to playing on. I think it is a great opportunity for us to go out and win," said Lahiri.

Speaking about playing at this level with PGA Tour stars, the Indian golfer said, "I had an opportunity to play with a lot of these guys at The Open Championship. This is another week that I can test myself against a quality field. It is all preparation to the lead up at the end of the year.

"I think it is a pretty simple course. You have to shoot a lot of birdies here. It is one of those courses where you can shoot six, seven, eight, nine or 10 if you are on a hot streak. It is going to be about making loads and loads of birdie this week."

Lahiri said he is confident and upbeat ahead of the competition.

"Last week (Hero Indian Open) was a huge confidence booster for me. I`m feeling much more confident and upbeat, probably more than going into last week`s event. The form is starting to come back and it is a good time."

The first two editions of this tournament were won by Americans Ben Crane and Bo Van Pelt, but 24-year-old Bhullar, who has won two tournaments in Taipei and Macau in the past two months, is pinning his hopes on the Asian stars to shine.

"Golf is no longer only the PGA Tour. If you look at the Ryder Cup or a few of the big tours, players are coming off from all over the world. I played with K J Choi a few weeks ago in Korea, and he was telling me golf is a global game now. Anybody from any country can come and win a big tournament.

"Obviously we have 10 top players from the Asian Tour this week. It could be anybody`s week, especially playing on Asian soil. It`s a benefit for Asian Tour players because we have been playing in this kind of conditions for the last few years," he said.

Bhullar also said that he was relishing the opportunity to take on the stars from America, especially Woods.

In fact, the Indian had a close encounter with Woods during his practice round today when the American showed up at the tee box.

"He was standing right behind the tee box waiting for me to clear it," said the Indian, ranked fifth on the Order of Merit.

"I don`t know if I should say yes or no (to a question on whether he was intimidated) but I think a bit. Suddenly you see Tiger Woods standing right behind your tee box, obviously, it`s kind of intimidating. But everybody`s at the same level, and everybody wants to win this tournament," insisted Bhullar.


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