Graeme McDowell saved his best for last as a closing five-under 66 saw him climb to T14 as Gaganjeet Bhullar walked away with much more than the trophy and bumper $270,000 winner’s cheque at the BNI Indonesian Masters presented by TNE.
His brilliant wire-to-wire victory also secured the all-important eighth place on The International Series Order of Merit, a result that secured an automatic bye into round two of the LIV Golf Promotions event and took the Indian a step closer to one of three golden tickets to the LIV Golf League roster next season.
McDowell’s closing round saw the Portrush man go bogey-free and, having started on the 10th, he hit all seven fairways and all nine greens on his final nine holes, mixing two birdies on that side with three on the back to make it back-to-back top-15 finishes after a T12 at last week’s Hong Kong Open.
Going into the weekend, Bhullar was sitting 46 on the Order of Merit, outside the top 40 which would generate seven second-round exemptions from those placed two to eight, and 25 first-round places for Asian Tour players.
The 11-time Asian Tour winner booked the final berth in the second round and edged out Phachara Khongwatmai into a first-round spot, the Thai star just falling short of that bye despite a rollercoaster third place at the Hong Kong Open last week.
Bhullar said: “This feels very special because before this week, since it is the cut off, coming here this week the standings was definitely on the back of my mind, and motivating me to play well and get the chance of a place in the LIV Golf qualifier. I played well last week too but struggled on Sunday, but this week the goal was to stay in the zone, and I managed to do that.”
In-form runner-up Karandeep Kochhar was also celebrating his big result as the brilliant final-round 63 took him into from 37th and up to 15, for one of 25 places on the first round of the LIV Golf Promotions event at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club from 8-10 December.
Kochhar has been a big mover in the past three weeks, coming out of nowhere with an impressive T5 in the Volvo China Open and a T25 at the Hong Kong Open before his runner-up spot at the Royale Jakarta.
He said: “Before these three weeks, it wasn’t on my mind. But yesterday I did have a look in the evening, I went on the Order of Merit and just trying to kind of see where I stood and everything. Anyway, if I played my game, I would be in.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for players like me in Asia, trying to get on the LIV Series which is arguably the best tour in the world. I’m really looking forward to that opportunity and have a good week in Abu Dhabi hopefully.”
Andy Ogletree had already wrapped up the Order of Merit and LIV Golf League golden ticket last week at the Hong Kong Open, the penultimate tournament on The International Series, the schedule of 10 elevated marquee events on the Asian Tour.
Spaniard David Puig finished runner up in the standings after an impressive tied third-placed finish alongside last week’s Hong Kong Open champion Ben Campbell, who moved up to third in the standings.
The International Series Vietnam winner Kieran Vincent, Wade Ormsby, Gunn Charoenkul and Bhullar complete the Asian Tour’s second round contingent in Abu Dhabi, where they will try to qualify for a fascinating 36-hole final day.
Vincent was delighted to claim an exemption. He said “Every week is an important week in golf but the fact that this one could have playing rights next year on LIV, ask me this question I would have told you that you were mad, to have a chance to compete for a place on the LIV Golf League.
“I can’t wait to get there, never been to Abu Dhabi and it is going to be a great event.”