Graeme McDowell remains in 40th place after a two-under 69 but 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 today after he shot an eight-under-par 63 for a 20-under total and a commanding seven-shot lead.
McDowell endured a frustrating first nine holes – he started his round on the 10th – hitting all seven fairways and nine greens, but taking 18 putts as he traded a single birdie with a single bogey.
He fared slightly better with the flatstick on the front side, dropping a shot at the first after missing his first green of the day, but one-putted six of the final eight holes to card three birdies and reach the clubhouse at -5 for the tournament.
Spaniard David Puig fired an equally impressive 62 to sit in solo second 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.
Of Bhullar’s 10 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.
“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.”
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.
Tomorrow’s final round will also determine who qualifies for the LIV Golf Promotions event 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 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 December 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.