Gaganjeet Bhullar recovered from a shaky start to card 3-under 69 and moved up to Tied-5th at the midway stage of the 5th edition of the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways. Bhullar added 69 to his first round to get to 5-under. He is six shots behind the runaway leader Kiwi Ben Campbell, who shot 67 after his first round 66 to get to 11-under.
Of the four Indians in the field, Ajeetesh Sandhu (73-73) was the only other one to make the cut, while Shiv Kapur (80-72) and Chiragh Kumar (77-80) missed out.
Bhullar on his maiden visit to Fiji is enjoying some unexpected fan following. “Bula” in Fiji means “Hello” and it rhymes well with his surname. The 8-time Asian Tour winner, smiled and said, “Every time I'm here (at the golf course), every third person is calling out my surname, "Bula, Bula." It's very good. I'm enjoying myself. My wife is here and we are enjoying ourselves, having a great time. It’s a great place.”
Campbell, whose sole professional win came earlier this year at the NZ PGA on Australasian Tour, shot 33-33 on either side of the turn and he may well have been a shot better but for his sole bogey on the 18th.
Right behind him is Australian Andrew Dodt (67-70) in sole second at 7-under 137, while two other Australians Terry Pilkadaris (70-68) and Jarryd Felton (67-71) are Tied-3rd at 6-under 138. Bhullar and six others are Tied-5th at 5-under 139.
On his round, Bhullar said, “I had a shaky start to the round, I started with a bogey and then I had another bogey on No. 3. Made a really good birdie on No. 2 and a great par save on No. 4. I think I was struggling with my driving on the first three holes, but after that, I got my momentum and swung the ball really well on the back nine. Three-under 69 is not a great round, but I think with 36 holes to go I'm in a good position.”
He went on, “I had two great par saves. One was on No. 4 and the other one was on No. 16. Both were probably 25‑ to 30‑feet par putts. I didn't convert too many birdie putts, but I holed a lot of putts for par. They felt like birdies as conditions were often tough in the afternoon.”
On the fine season he is having, he smiled and added, “Honestly, nothing has changed. I'm doing exactly the same stuff I've been doing all these years. For some reason the ball is going in the hole more often. I don't know why. I'm not doing anything extraordinary or anything different. The goal is to hit 14 fairways and 18 greens in regulation every single round. Yeah, the last one and a half to two months have been really good. I have two runner‑up finishes and let’s see what’s next.”
When Sandhu came off the course, his scores were shown wrongly as 5-under for the day on the scoreboard. He actually shot 2-over but did make the cut at 3-over at Tied-51st. “How I wish I had played 5-under,” said Sandhu, for whom this is the first cut on a tournament figuring in the European Tour schedule since the Hero Indian Open in March.
Three-time Major winner and the Natadola Golf Course designer, Vijay Singh (76-72), made the cut despite bogeying his last hole, the ninth.
Ernie Els (72-70) was T-20, while defending champion Jason Norris (72-76) made it on the line.
About the Author
V Krishnaswamy is India's most widely travelled journalist. He has covered more than 20 Majors, Presidents Cup, EurAsia Cup and more than 120 international golf tournaments around the world. He has also covered seven Olympic Games, 8 Asian Games and 6 Commonwealth Games besides numerous World Championships in various sports.