A brilliant chip-in eagle at the 17th hole propelled Indian golfer Gaganjeet Bhullar to claim his maiden European Tour title with a one-stroke win over a charging Anthony Quayle of Australia at the Fiji International here today. The 30-year-old fired a sizzling six-under 66 in the final round but it was his eagle at the second last hole which earned him the lead over Quayle, who broke the course record with a nine-under 63 at the Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course. It was Bhullar’s first win on the European Tour, ninth Asian Tour and 10th crown overall. He thus became the most successful Indian player on Asian Tour and the first Indian to win on Australasia Tour. Bhullar joined Arjun Atwal, Jeev Milkha Singh, SSP Chawrasia and Anirban Lahiri as the only Indians to win on the European Tour as this was sanctioned by Asian, Australasia and European Tours.
The victory also granted him an exemption on all three Tours till end of 2019.
“I’ve been playing really well. It was just a matter of time and I’m glad it happened on this stage,” said Bhullar. “This kind of good form was definitely building up from last, I would say, two months, I had two good finishes. In fact, more than two, but two runner up finishes on the Asian Tour.” Besides the eagle, Bhullar also sank five birdies against a lone bogey on day 4 to take his four-day total to 14-under 274.
“It was a tough day. It was windy, flags were tough, but I played really well. I gave myself many, many opportunities today. The key was I got on to a really good start, I was three under after four holes and I think that kept me going,” he said.
“And just around the turn things were actually getting a little tough for me, but I think I managed to make a really good par save on number 10. That gave me a lot of boost, a lot of confidence. “After that, it was just one shot at a time and I was just able to execute. I was mentally prepared for that. I knew somebody or another had to go low today.
Going into the fourth round with a one -stroke lead, Bhullar withstood intense pressure as he holed a monstrous chip from outside the green for an eagle-three at the 17th to head into the last hole with a one-shot advantage over Quayle.
Bhullar hit his approach shot straight onto the green on 18 and left his birdie putt just short of the hole. An easy tap-in for par earned him the title. Talking about his match-winning eagle at the 17th, Bhullar said: “Even though after number 16, I still had hopes, I still had kind of a feeling that I can still win the tournament, but I think that chip in on 17, that pretty much closed the deal.
“I had a little bit of an idea that this chip is going to run a lot, but it wasn’t an easy chip, I could have easily missed up and down and settled for second or third.”
South Africa’s four-time Major Championship winner Ernie Els carded 65 to finish at tied third along with Australian Ben Campbell, who brought home a card of six-under 66. Other Indian in fray, Ajeetesh Sandhu scored 71 in the final round to end his campaign at the tied 43rd spot.