After almost 10 years, seasoned Gaganjeet Bhullar won a Professional Golfers Tour of India (PGTI) title on Sunday when he clinched the Tata Steel Tour Championship here – his 10th trophy on the tour. His last PGTI title had come in March 2011 in Chandigarh. Bhullar (32) saw it home with a hard-fought four-under-68 despite a bumpy ride on the final day. He totalled an outstanding 24-under-264 for the week.
Gaganjeet took home the winning cheque of Rs. 24,24,750 and is now likely to make major gains in the world ranking from his current 807th position, having earned five Official World Golf Ranking points for his win on Sunday.
"Honestly, I was not at all expecting to win this week. This week the first goal for me was to make the cut. But I kept gaining momentum with each passing round and played four solid rounds where my putting was very consistent," he said.
The final round of the Rs. 1.5 crore event was witness to an absorbing contest as Kapurthala's Bhullar, Bengalureans Chikkarangappa and Khalin Joshi, SSP Chawrasia of Kolkata and Amardeep Malik of Noida were all in the lead or joint lead at different stages.
Chikkarangappa ended the week as the runner-up after his fourth round of 68 took his total to 22-under-266. His second place finish lifted him from 11th to second position in the PGTI Order of Merit.
Khalin Joshi (69) finished third at 21-under-267, Kolkata's Rahil Gangjee, who fired the day's best score of 67, took tied fourth place at 20-under-268 along with SSP Chawrasia (72). Amardeep Malik (73), the joint third round leader along with Bhullar and Chawrasia, closed the week in sixth place at 19-under-269.
On Sunday, the leading 27 players out of 53 played their first nine holes at Golmuri and second nine holes at Beldih. The remaining 26 players played at Beldih first and then Golmuri.
Bhullar (69-63-64-68), a winner of 10 international titles with victories on both the European Tour and Asian Tour, brought all his experience into play by coming through despite dropping five shots (three bogeys and a double-bogey) in the final round.
The Amritsar-born Bhullar, who holds the Indian record of nine wins on the Asian Tour, consolidated his position at the top with a flurry of early birdies on the first, third and fourth holes thanks to his accurate iron and wedge shots. His troubles began on the fifth where he double-bogeyed after finding the hazard. He missed an up and down on the next hole to drop another shot.
Bhullar, a part of the Indian team that won the silver medal at the 2006 Doha Asian Games, pulled one stroke back with a 15-feet birdie conversion on the eighth before conceding another bogey on the 11th. The broad-built six-footer from Punjab then added two more birdies on the 12th and 13th before finding trouble once again on the 15th where he landed in the trees and as a result made bogey.
Bhullar was two behind Chikka and Joshi after 15 holes but the match turned on its head when the eventual winner chipped-in for eagle on the 16th and sank a 20-footer for birdie on the 17th. As Chikka and Joshi stumbled on the 18th with a bogey and double-bogey respectively, Bhullar went on to seal the title with a two-shot margin after a par on the final hole.