Bhullar the man to watch out for at Avantha Masters
Gurgaon: Gaganjeet Bhullar, who has been on a winning streak this season -- three wins in four starts -- is looking to carry on his solid early season form into the 2011 Avantha Masters, a co-sanctioned event between Asian and European Tours at the DLF Golf and Country Club starting on Thursday.
The field has one of the strongest-ever home challenges. Barring PGA Tour player, Arjun Atwal, who injured himself last week in United States, all top Indians are looking for a win this week at the richest event in the country, carrying a purse of USD 2.3 million.
Bhullar comes in this week in incredible form having won India`s first-ever European Challenge Tour event, the Gujarat Kensville Challenge and two other Aircel PGTI events in last five weeks. The 22-year-old knows all eyes will be on him at the Avantha Masters.
Even as Bhullar looks to another win, Jeev Milkha Singh, whose 13 international titles do not include any at home, wants to make this a winning week.
Other leading Indians in the field include the highly decorated Jyoti Randhawa, who is nevertheless going through a dip in form.
Other Indians in the fray are Rahil Gangjee, who recently made the Nationwide Tour in US, former Volvo Masters of Asia champion Shiv Kapur, SSP Chowrasia, winner of the 2008 Indian Masters, the first European Tour event in India, and C
Muniyappa, winner of Indian Open at this very venue in 2009.
Bhullar, said, "I`m having a dream run this year, winning three weeks in a row and I could not have asked for a better start to my season. Im really feeling positive about my game right now and let`s see what happens this week."
"Last year`s season-opener was just my first tournament for the year but this year, I`ve already won three tournaments in a row so I think it`s definitely going to be better than last year," said Bhullar.
Jeev said, "I`m feeling much better. I`ve played the last four weeks in the Middle East swing and this is my fifth week in a row. There is pain and I`m not 100 per cent. I think I`m moving in the right direction and I`m doing a lot of yoga and
physiotherapy. I`m taking three weeks off after this and I think I should be ready in another month`s time."
Defending champion Andrew Dodt of Australia returns to the scene of his maiden victory and looks forward to another good show.
"I didn`t play as well as I would lie to, making just one cut out of four events so far this year. But having said that, I just need one good round to kick start things and
hopefully it`ll happen this week," said Dodt.
A year ago at the same course, the Australian experienced the winning feeling for the first time by lifting the inaugural title by one shot and he is determined to rekindle those memories once again.
"That bunker shot on the 18th last year really changed my life. I actually went back to hit it a couple of times and I didn`t hit it as good this time round. But I`ll always
remember all the good shots that I hit last year and try to repeat that again this week," said the 25-year-old.
"The Avantha Masters and India have a special place in my heart because it got me to where I`m today and changed my life dramatically. I have never defended a tournament before and I`m glad that I`m able to do that for the first time this
year," added the Australian.
Gangjee, meanwhile, is determined to get his 2011 Asian Tour season off to flying start and he intends to start by making up for last year`s heartbreak at the Avantha Masters.
The 32-year-old Indian was the home favourite to lift the inaugural title last year and he looked set to end his six-year title drought then until three successive bogeys in the closing three holes put paid to his title hopes.
"It was bitter-sweet memories, to be honest. I`ll always remember how passionate the home crowd was in supporting me on the final day but I just let them down in those closing three holes," said Gangjee.
"I think I`ve become a better player as compared to last year. I`m also able to control the ball better as I`ve got lots of things sorted out with my equipment," said Gangjee.
Asia`s elite including three-time Asian Tour Order of Merit winner, Thailand`s Thongchai Jaidee, Singapore`s Mardan Mamat, Japan`s Tetsuji Hiratsuka and Malaysia`s Danny Chia are among the other favourites at the event, which is also the season-opening event on the 2011 Asian Tour Schedule.