Kuala Lumpur: Riding on his superb second-place finish at the Avantha Masters, Indian golfer Gaganjeet Bhullar on Monday zoomed to the top spot in the Asian Tour Order of Merit. Bhullar, a four-time Asian Tour winner, produced a superb closing round of eight-under 64 in the final round of the event tri-sanctioned by Asian Tour, the European Tour and the Professional Golf Tour of India.
He finished second behind Thomas Aiken of South Africa, who romped to a three-shot victory. The young Indian's wonderful effort has propelled him to the top of the Asian money list where he leads with earnings of USD 262,648.
"There were plenty of positives from the week. I was hitting it straight throughout the tournament and my iron-striking also improved. My course management has improved a lot over the last seven years on the Asian Tour," said Bhullar.
The 24-year-old will continue his friendly rivalry with Aiken at the USD 2.75 million Maybank Malaysian Open which gets underway on Thursday. Former world number one Luke Donald of England, multiple Major winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland, Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, reigning Asian Tour number one Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand and two-time Malaysian Open champion Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand will headline the event at the magnificent Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.
Bhullar is confident he can carry his momentum into the Maybank Malaysian Open, which is co-sanctioned with the European Tour, and extend his lead on the Order of Merit.
"I have a strong feeling that with my current form, another tournament win is just around the corner," said the Indian, who earned 12 Official World Golf Ranking points and moved up to 85th in the world.
Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who finished fourth in the Avantha Masters, moved to third on the Order of Merit with earnings of USD 135,900. He is some USD 11,000 behind second-placed Liang Wen-chong of China, who finished third at the Avantha Masters which included a magical hole-in-one during the final round.
"I'm really happy with the way I've played and I feel more comfortable. I believe I can finish the season on a high position. I hope to repeat last week's performance and ultimately go one better by winning the title. I've been in contention in Myanmar and in India already so I believe I'm coming close to winning my second Asian tour title," said the 23-year-old Kiradech.
Korea's Baek Seuk-hyun moved to fourth on the Merit list with USD 107,323 while Anirban Lahiri of India, who won his third Asian Tour title at the SAIL-SBI Open on home soil two weeks ago, is fifth with USD 74,124. Scott Hend of Australia (USD 72,915), Chawalit Plaphol of Thailand (USD 70,971) and Mithun Perera of Sri Lanka (USD 51,396) are placed sixth, seventh and eighth respectively.