Nusajaya : Gaganjeet Bhullar is just 24 years old but he fully understands that he could well be the next one to inspire the next generation of youngsters into the game back in India by pushing for the top spot on Order of Merit at the USD 2 million Iskandar Johor Open.
Getting ready for the final event of the 2012 season on Asian Tour, Bhullar is lying fourth on the Order of Merit ahead of the Iskandar Johor Open which tees off here on Thursday.
Apart from Bhullar, there is a strong Indian presence at the event with the likes of Shiv Kapur, Anirban Lahiri, Jyoti Randhawa, SSP Chowrasia, Himmat Rai, Digvijay Singh, Chiragh Kumar, Shankar Das and Ajeetesh Sandhu also competing for the top honours.
The field also has Daniel Chopra, who was sixth last week in Thailand Golf Championships, and he will be looking to revive memories of his first pro win achieved in Johor back in 1993.
The presence of Major champions like Ernie Els, Michael Campbell and John Daly besides Sergio Garcia, a perennial favourite, has made the field world class.
India holds the distinction of having produced the most number of Merit champions with Jyoti Randhawa (2002) followed by Arjun Atwal in 2003. Jeev Milkha Singh secured a double with wins in 2006 and 2008. And it is a proud record that Bhullar hopes to add his name too.
India`s top ranked star will be Bhullar, who said, "I grew up watching Jeev Milkha Singh. It meant a lot to see him win Order of Merit and he did that twice. Every time you go onto the driving range or you play a tournament and win, these kinds of things keep motivating you.
"If I go on to win the Order of Merit, you know there will be lot more Indians taking up golf. It was what Jeev used to do 10 years ago when I was a little kid and I used to follow him. Now the next generation of golfers from India are getting ready."
Bhullar, a two-time winner this season, was among leaders at the Johor event. He smilingly said, "I have some unfinished work here. Things like Order of Merit don`t come to the mind when you`re on the golf course. But subconsciously, it does matter to me. The only thing that you`re thinking of is making birdies and saving pars.
"But there are goals at the back of the mind. I would love to win this tournament. I looked at the field and I see a lot of the big names. Another big week will definitely add to my world ranking points and the Order of Merit. I played well in CIMB Classic and the WGC-HSBC Champions and the level of my confidence has definitely gone up high."
He feels a few good breaks on the course could give him the impetus.
"I think it`s just a matter of a few good breaks on the fairways or on the greens," he added.
Meanwhile, Australia`s Marcus Fraser is ready to put up a strong challenge and become the first Australian to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit title.
Fraser, who is second on the rankings, trails Thailand`s Thaworn Wiratchant by slightly over USD 25,000, and is expecting the merit race to go down the wire at the Horizon Hills Golf and Country Club.
"It`s a fairly close fight between Thaworn and myself but there`re still probably four or five guys out there who still have a chance of winning the Order of Merit. It`s going to be a pretty exciting week for sure," said Fraser.
After enjoying four top-five finishes on the Asian Tour this season, Fraser is setting his sights on wrapping up a sensational season with a win at the Iskandar Johor Open.
"It`ll be a huge achievement if I become the first Australian to win the Order of Merit title. I love playing in Asia and I`ve got lots of good friends that play on the Asian Tour. It`s good fun coming up to these events and to be able to have the chance of possibly winning the Order of Merit this week is something that I look forward to," said the 34-year-old Australian.
South Africa`s Jbe Kruger could have narrowed the gap at the top with a good finish at the Thailand Golf Championship last week but was left disappointed after he closed with a 75 to finish tied-28th.
"It was unfortunate that I didn`t get the result that I wanted last week," said Kruger of his performance at the Thailand Golf Championship which earned the highest Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points anywhere around the world, surpassing the Australian Open and Nelson Mandela Championship last week.