Shoots bogey-free 63 to begin final event of The International Series
Three tied for second; Reed also in contention
JAKARTA, Indonesia – India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar struck again on Indonesian soil Thursday, firing a sizzling bogey-free 8-under 63 for the first-round lead in the US $1.5 million BNI Indonesian Masters presented by TNE, the final International Series event of the season.
He has the lead here at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, ahead of second-placed Phachara Khongwatmai from Thailand, American Paul Peterson and Honey Baisoya from India, all in with 65s.
American Patrick Reed, Canada’s Richard T. Lee, Australians Wade Ormsby and Travis Smyth plus Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond, the winner here in 2019, and Gunn Charoenkul are next best placed following 66s.
Bhullar is the most successful player from his country on the Asian Tour with 10 victories, but he is winless this year and searching for a solution.
“The whole year I have been feeling strong mentally and physically,” said the Indian. “Thought I have been playing well but not really delivering. This is golf. I am sure my subconscious mind will figure it out.”
The 35-year-old has a phenomenal record in Indonesia having won on four occasions – three Indonesian Opens and the Indonesian President Invitational – while he has come close many other times.
An adjustment to his putting helped to trigger today’s windfall of birdies.
He said: “I figured out something with my stroke on the first few holes and kept on repeating the same action. In the end the result was eight under par.
“It was more to do with the way I was looking at the lines. I just changed the way I was visualising the putt. Nothing changed in my stroke, just the ability to change reading the lines from a different point of view.”
Starting on hole 10 he made three birdies going out and five on the back, including the last two.
Phachara came close to winning the Hong Kong Open last week, finishing in third, and despite nursing a bad back, he is in the frame again this week.
He said: “Yesterday, I hurt my back and thought I might have to withdraw. I could not take the club back so had to withdraw from the Pro-Am after one and a half holes.
“I have had this a couple of times, it’s not a huge problem. The physio helped yesterday.”
His round reached a crescendo when he holed his second on the par-4 fifth, with a 7-iron from just over 200 yards.
Asked if he was disappointed about last week’s result, where he made a costly double bogey on 16 and three-putted 18, he said: “Not really disappointed because golf is like that. I’ll take the third place. I am playing great right now, that’s why I’m always go, top, top, top.”
This is only the third appearance of the season by Peterson on the Asian Tour as he has been playing on the Korn Ferry Tour, where he retained his playing privileges for 2024.
“I thought we hit a lot of our boxes today. There were a couple of tough pins out there which were tough to get at,” said the American, who claimed the Myanmar Open in 2018.
The 35-year-old left-hander admitted he is happy to back in the region.
“Familiar faces, gotta be the friendliest Tour in the world. It is nice to be back,” said Peterson. “There’s no place hotter in the world of course but it’s fun to be out here and see guys you have not seen for a while, and just have a good time.”
Thailand’s Chapchai Nirat put together an astonishing run of seven birdies in a row and was on track to match the record of nine – set by Austrian Bernd Wiesberger at the Malaysian Championship in 2017 – before dropping a shot on 17. He did manage to bounce back with a birdie 18 for a 67.
New Zealand’s Ben Campbell, who won the Hong Kong Open on Sunday, and Anirban Lahiri from India carded 73s.
Defending champion Sarit Suwannarut from Thailand returned a 74, as did American Andy Ogletree, who wrapped up The International Series Order of Merit title at the Hong Kong Open last Sunday to secure his place on next year’s LIV Golf League.
Play was stopped for the day at 5.05 p.m. local time due to inclement weather. Eighteen players, none of whom are in the running, will return to complete their rounds Friday morning.