Asian Tour Release – 10 October 2018: Indian star Gaganjeet Bhullar is confident he can contend at the US$7 million CIMB Classic which starts on Thursday.
The 30-year-old is enjoying a superb season on the Asian Tour where he won his ninth title in August and currently sits in fifth place on the Habitat for Humanity Standings.
Making his fourth appearance at the CIMB Classic, Bhullar believes his form is peaking at the right time as he prepares to challenge for honours at the TPC Kuala Lumpur, West Course.
“I know this is definitely my favorite tournament of the year. We all look forward to playing this tournament. It’s a great opportunity for us and really excited, really happy to be back here,” said Bhullar. “The golf course is in a great shape. I mean, this year it’s got a really strong field, so it’s going to be really, really stiff competition.
“I’ve been playing quite consistent and quite well this year. The victory in Fiji gave me a lot of confidence. Yes, my best result at the CIMB Classic was at Mines Golf & Country Club, but I think the best is yet to come. I’ve played on this golf course quite a few times and anything is possible.”
“As a player I’ve really matured over the period of years. This is my fourth attempt, so every time I come here I get to learn so many new things. I would say I’m a better player this time, better chance at it and looking at it, I’m feeling really confident.
“Thanks for making me old. But yes, it is kind of a strong feeling I would say. I’m feeling more like mature golfer and a lot of the familiar faces this week. I’ve played with them here in 2012, ’13, ’16, so feeling really confident to be back.”
Sanghyun Park of Korea, ranked second on the Habitat for Humanity Standings, will also feature in the event alongside defending champion Pat Perez and two-time CIMB Classic champion Justin Thomas.
Bhullar admits he was in awe of the PGA Tour players when he played in the 2012, 2013 and 2016 editions but he feels his game has improved tremendously ahead of the ninth staging of the CIMB Classic.
Lahiri, the 2015 Asian Tour number one, raced against time to travel to Malaysia from the United States after receiving news on Monday that he had qualified for the event after Andrew Landry had withdrawn.
“I’m quite relieved actually. I made my plans in the offseason assuming that I would play, so I kind of expected myself to be playing so it came as a bit of a surprise,” said Lahiri
“It was funny actually. I played a round with Branden Grace back in Florida the weekend before Napa, so like 10 days ago. Branden’s the one who told me like (inaudible.) What are you talking about? I hadn’t even looked because it’s always gone down past 100, comfortably past 100. Like what do you mean? He was like, no, no. He was looking for himself because he’s first alternate for Korea. He said, I was looking for myself and I’m alternate for Korea and I was looking at the CIMB list and I saw you’re not in.
“That’s when I checked. I said but it’s already too late because they usually go about four weeks before the event.”
“I didn’t bother asking for an invite because I didn’t think I would need it. If you make it to the second Playoff event, you’re pretty much guaranteed to play here. Apparently not.
“Yesterday I got here and I went straight to Rahil Gangjee’s room and we were sitting and chatting for like two, three hours just catching up and that’s fun. I miss that obviously. So that’s what it’s like coming here. Even now I’m just walking around, I know so many familiar faces, just catching up and saying hello. It’s become like a yearly affair where I kind of catch up with everyone. Obviously when we have the Eurasia Cup, that’s the other time that you usually come to KL.”
John Catlin, the first player to win three times on the Asian Tour in 2018, will play in his first PGA TOUR event. The American, who rose from the Asian Development Tour (ADT) ranks will enter the tournament with high confidence after winning on Sunday in Chinese Taipei.
Malaysia’s Ben Leong said he was lucky to be part of the elite field after Gavin Green withdrew from the tournament. As the second highest ranked Malaysian in the world, Leong was next in line to qualify for the event.
Did you know?
- Bhullar is the only Indian to win nine times on the Asian Tour following his victory in Fiji in August.
- He played in three editions of the CIMB Classic with his best result in tied 10th place in the 2012 showpiece, albeit on a different golf course.
- This will be Bhullar’s fourth appearance in the CIMB Classic since 2016.
- In his nine Asian Tour victories, Bhullar has won in Indonesia (three times), Thailand, Chinese Taipei (twice), Macao, Korea and Fiji. He has yet to taste success in Malaysia.
- With 50% of the earnings counted on the Asian Tour this week, Bhullar can narrow Shubhankar Sharma’s lead on the Habitat for Humanity Standings where he trails by US$210,619
- Lahiri came close to winning the CIMB Classic in 2016. He led by four shots heading into the final round but a 72 dashed his title hopes as he settled for tied third place. He was also tied 10th in last year’s edition.
- He had a nervous wait to qualify for the CIMB Classic as he was the first alternate in the elite field before finally getting into the tournament on Monday.
- Catlin earned his Asian Tour card after finishing third on the Asian Development Tour Order of Merit last year. This is his first PGA Tour event after a successful season on the Asian Tour where he won three titles.
- Leong is playing in his second CIMB Classic. He played in the event in 2015 where he finished in a share of 64th place.