Chandigarh, March 30 2008: The inaugural Centurion Bank of Punjab Open Golf Championship had an exciting finale as Mukesh Kumar used all his experience to beat Gaganjeet Bhullar on the first playoff hole. Mukesh thus won his third title of the 2007-08 PGTI season. Mukesh and Gaganjeet were
involved in a playoff for the title as the two finished at the top of the leaderboard with an identical total of fourteen under 274 after 72 holes. Manav Jaini finished third with a total of six under 282.
Mukesh Kumar’s dream run in the 2007-08 season continued when he converted a 12 feet putt on the first playoff hole to clinch the Centurion Bank of Punjab Open. This was his third title of the 2007-08 PGTI season as he had earlier won the IOC XtraPremium Masters in November 2007 and the Tata Open in January 2008. Mukesh shot rounds of 67, 69, 68 and 70 to total fourteen under 274 for the week.
Mukesh started the final day with a five stroke lead over his nearest rival Gaganjeet Bhullar. However, the 42-year-old veteran looked a nervous starter on Sunday when he bogeyed the first two holes. He then picked up birdies on the third, fifth and sixth. Mukesh made the turn at level par after dropping a bogey on the eighth. The professional from Mhow then played a solid back nine by making seven pars and two birdies (13th and 18th). The overnight leader almost let the title slip as Bhullar caught up with him on the 16th and then took a one stroke lead on the 17th. But Mukesh struck back with a birdie on the 18th to be tied with Bhullar. The match then went to a playoff and Mukesh edged out Bhullar on the first playoff hole by making a 12 feet putt for birdie. Bhullar on the other hand landed his approach shot over the green and then could not chip-in for a birdie.
Mukesh, elated after his third triumph of the season, said, "I feel great about this win because I felt I had almost lost the title at one stage. I think it was my experience that paid-off at the end. Gaganjeet played some outstanding golf to give me a very tough fight. He has a great future and will only get better with experience." He added, "This is turning out to be a great year for me because there is a lot of improvement in all aspects of my game. The last time I played so well was in 1993-94 when I won 11 titles out of 20 in the season.
"I did not get nervous in the playoff today and that worked in my favour. I attacked the pin on the 72nd hole and in the playoff. My approach shot on both occasions was spot on. I also putted well to make crucial birdies on the 72nd hole and in the playoff," said the Centurion Bank of Punjab Open champion. Mukesh added, "I feel I still have five years of top class golf left in me and this victory has added to my confidence." This triumph was also Mukesh’s fourth at the Chandigarh Golf Club and overall his 101st in professional golf. The Mhow-based professional has now climbed from fourth to third on the current PGTI Order of Merit.
Gaganjeet Bhullar (69, 69, 71, 65) was unfortunate to miss out on his first professional win despite firing 65 to equal the course record of the Chandigarh Golf Club on Sunday. Bhullar began his fourth round with a bogey on the first hole. He then closed the gap between himself and Mukesh by playing some incredible golf by sinking birdies on the fourth, fifth, ninth, 12th, 13th, 15th, 16th and 17th.
The 19-year-old from Kapurthala who has come close to winning a pro title on a few occasions before, said, "I thought I played really well today but am disappointed to miss out on the title. At the start of this tournament I felt it was the perfect setting for me to register a win because the course was not playing too long. But I lost out to a very experienced player at the end." He added, "I was very confident heading into the final round and played aggressively to close a huge gap of five strokes between myself and Mukesh. This performance will help me grow as a player."
Manav Jaini (71, 70, 70, 71) finished third at six under 282. His fourth round of 71 included six birdies and five bogeys.Chandigarh’s Harendra Gupta (71, 72, 68, 72) was fourth at five under 283. Vijay Kumar (69, 69, 72, 75) was two strokes behind Gupta in fifth place.Arjun Singh (72, 74, 70, 72) ended in tied 10th place at even par 288.
Digvijay Singh (76, 72, 70, 72) continues to be second on the PGTI Order of Merit after finishing tied 17th with a total of two over 290.Harmeet Kahlon (71, 72, 75, 73) finished with a total of three over 291 to be tied 23rd.
Ashbeer Saini (67, 73, 78, 77), the 14-year-old from Kapurthala who led after the first round, won the amateur’s trophy as he totaled seven over 295 (best amateur total) for the tournament. He was tied 31st overall.