Bhullar sizzles with six-under 65; Tiger cards 66
Kuala Lumpur : Gaganjeet Bhullar, who has bagged two titles in the last six weeks, today showed why he is currently Asia`s hottest golfer as he carded a stunning six-under 65 on the opening day of the star-studded CIMB Classic here.
Bhullar`s 65 was one better than 14-time Major winner, Tiger Woods (66). The Indian was two shots behind leader Troy Matteson of the US who carded 63, to be at tied fifth.
Woods was hot on the back nine with five-under 31 after a modest even par front nine.
Anirban Lahiri, India`s other big hope, shot even par 71 with five birdies, three bogeys and a double to be tied 38th.
Bhullar riding a purple streak of birdie-birdie-par-eagle from 14th to 17th was four-under 32 for the back nine, after being two-under 33 for the first stretch at the Mines Resort and Golf Club.
He sank an eagle and five birdies in the USD 6.1 million tournament sanctioned by the Asian Tour and PGA Tour.
Bhullar nearly matched playing partner Robert Garrigus of the United States, who returned a superb 64.
"This is my first visit to the CIMB (Classic)...I have been wanting to play in this event. It is my pleasure to be in the part of the field where Tiger Woods is playing.
"We just enjoyed our 18 holes. He (Garrigus) shot a good round today, and I also played good. I`m looking forward to the next three days," said Bhullar.
Bhullar made three birdies through eight holes before dropping his lone bogey of the day on nine. On the inward stretch, he struck a hot streak from the 14th hole when he nailed two birdies before rolling in a snaky 15-foot eagle putt on 17.
"Trust me, that was a killer putt. That`s probably the best putt of this season. I never expected it to break so much from the right, and first when I hit it, I thought I might be missing from the right. But it just died out in the hole."
With fellow Asian Tour colleagues Danny Chia and Jbe Kruger of South Africa, who also shot a 66, starting well, Bhullar is not discounting an Asian winner emerging at the CIMB Classic.
The first two editions saw Americans Ben Crane and Bo Van Pelt winning the tournament.
"All these PGA Tour guys, they have made a name for themselves, and it is our pleasure to go out with these guys and to play well. I think the Asian Tour is moving ahead. We are going in a positive direction. You never know this week, it could be an Asian Tour player`s week," said Bhullar.
The slightly built Kruger was seven under for the day with one hole to play but came back down the field with an unfortunate double bogey six on the last. His consolation though is that he earned a pairing with Woods for tomorrow`s second round.
"I actually bent my eight iron on the fourth hole and I had a flier lie, so I couldn`t use a nine iron on 18 as I couldn`t get there. I couldn`t hit a seven iron. I needed eight iron, and it`s bent so I can`t use it. And then I compensated a little, hit it in the bunker and didn`t hit a very good shot and missed the putt.
"I think I can definitely go lower than I went today, but I can`t really hit it a lot better than that."
Danny Chia raised local cheers with a bogey-free 66 as he ended the day in joint seventh position alongside, amongst others, Woods, who needed a back nine charge to haul himself into the tournament.
Chia, who finished tied 13th in last year`s CIMB Classic, was rock solid as he racked up five birdies on the card. He felt jittery arriving at the Mines Resort in the morning but after a solid opening tee shot, Chia played flawlessly.
Current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand scrambled to a 72 in a round that included four birdies, three bogeys and one double bogey.