Bhullar at 20 under, closes in on fifth career victory in Indonesia
LIV golfer Puig shoots 62, low round of the week, to move into second
JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indian Gaganjeet Bhullar’s bid to add the BNI Indonesian Masters presented by TNE title to the four other events he has already claimed in Indonesia continued unabated Saturday after he shot an 8-under 63 for a 20-under total and a commanding seven-shot lead.
Spaniard David Puig fired an equally impressive 62 to sit in solo second here at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, while New Zealand’s Ben Campbell, in with a 63, Indian Veer Ahlawat, who carded a 65, and Richard T. Lee from Canada, after a 68, are tied for third a further stroke back in the final event of The International Series.
Of Bhullar's 10 magnificent victories on the Asian Tour – the most but any player from his nation – three have been wire-to-wire, and he looks like adding to that impressive statistic tomorrow having led here from start to finish.
He only dropped one shot today and nailed nine birdies.
“I think, as I said yesterday, the goal was to keep the ball in play from the tee and hit it close from the fairway,” said Bhullar, whose other wire-to-wire wins came in the Macao Open in 2012 and 2017 and the 2013 Indonesia Open.
“And then the goal is to putt better, and today I putted really well. I missed the shortest birdie putt of the week on number three, which was like three feet, I think after that, that just kind of motivated me to read the lines properly and just some sort of a trigger in my mind. And I think after that I just kept reading the lines properly and the pace was really good today.”
Of his four wins in Indonesia, three have been in the country’s national Open, in 2013, 2016 and in August last year – which is his most recent win on the Asian Tour – while he first tasted victory on Indonesian soil at the Indonesia President Invitational 14 years ago.
Puig’s brilliant bogey-free 62 is the lowest round of the week, although it could not officially count as one of the lowest in the event’s history as preferred lies were played.
“It's hard to believe but I played pretty much like today the other two days,” said the 21-year-old, who won the International Series Singapore in October.
“I putted it awful the first two days, and even though I shot nine under today, I feel that I left some out there, which is pretty impressive. Very happy with my ball striking. I've been hitting it very, very good throughout the week, and yeah, a little happier today with my putting. Hopefully I’ll have a good chance tomorrow to maybe get my second win, it would be awesome.”
Campbell won the Hong Kong Open on Sunday and an opening round 73 here suggested another good week here was a bridge too far but rounds of 65 and 63 have given him a chance to be the first back-to-back winner on the Asian Tour since Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond at the end of 2019.
He said: “It was a weird 73 on day one, I think I only missed two or three greens, just couldn’t hole a putt. I said to my caddie at the end of the day I felt like I was swinging it better than last week.
“Even yesterday I hit it great and didn’t hole a whole lot but at the end of the day it was nice to hit a couple of really close ones, so yeah finding the greens a little bit tricky to read but hopefully get a few more to drop tomorrow.”
Sunday’s final round will also determine who qualifies for the LIV Golf Promotions tournament from The International Series Order of Merit, as this week’s US $1.5 million event is the last International Series tournament of 2023.
Players ranked two to eight will earn an exemption into round two of the Promotions event while the leading 25 available players from within the top-40 (excluding those exempt into round two) will gain entrance into round one.
The three-day four-round tournament, to take place at Abu Dhabi Golf Club from Dec. 8-10, will see the top three finishers earn exemptions into next year’s multi-million-dollar LIV Golf League.
American Andy Ogletree booked his place on the LIV Golf League after securing The International Series Order of Merit title last week in Hong Kong, while the big mover tomorrow looks like being Bhullar, who, if he wins, will leap from 46th place to eighth on the Merit list.