Chonburi, Thailand: On a high after clinching his fifth Asian Tour title earlier this month, Gaganjeet Bhullar will spearhead the Indian challenge at the Thai Golf Championships starting in Thailand on Thursday. Bhullar will be joined by the likes of Randhawa, whose last Asian Tour title came in Thailand in 2009, and Jeev Milkha Singh, who is easily the most traveled Indian golfers apart from being the most successful.
Also there would be SSP Chowrasia, whose two wins have both come on joint-sanctioned events in India, Anirban Lahiri, Digvijay Singh, Himmat Rai and many more making up for exactly a dozen in a field of 126 who tee off on Thursday morning.
Placed comfortably in fourth position on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, Bhullar is in no hurry to force things. At 25, he knows he has a whole life and a wonderful career ahead of him.
"This has been a very good year. I have had a win, the fifth of my career on the Asian Tour, and I am set for the European Tour in 2014. Sure I will play in Asia now and then, mostly in co-sanctioned events and a maybe few more, but the focus will be on bigger events on European Tour," said Bhullar.
"I want to play as much as I can. From here I will go back home for the PGTI (Indian) Tour's final event in India and then I will begin the new year with the Desert swing in Abu Dhabi and on to Qatar and Dubai. I will also play all events in South Africa."
He knows his journey, though could be called a bit up-and-down, because of a few missed cuts. "I have been playing well, even when I have missed cuts. It is a question of getting things together for four days and I feel I am quite close to it. I just want to get into a position to contend before just as the weekend begins and then go for it."
Bhullar added, "I am 25 and I have been a pro only for seven years and if I keep fit I could go on for 20 years more, so I just want to progress and improve gradually."
Then there is, Randhawa, one of the flag bearers of Indian golf. His eight titles from the Asian Tour are the highest among all Indians and he feels he can add a few more. After a couple of none-too-happy seasons, Randhawa is back in decent form.
"I have played well close to the weekend last few weeks. I am happy that my game is coming around and the changes I have made in last 2-3 years are settling in," said Randhawa, before pushing off for the Pro-Am. "I need to take a quick look around the Amata Spring course."
On the number of Indians here, Randhawa remarked that one of the guys joked to him, that 10 per cent of the field is Indian. "I counted and we are 12 guys here. In addition we have a few who are not here or could not make it like Shiv Kapur, Rahil Gangjee and Chiragh Kumar and then there are youngsters waiting in the wings. Indian golf is really very strong now."
The year 2013 may not have been among the best of his career, but the never-say-die Jeev says, "One good week and it all comes back. I have been though this before," says Jeev of the rough patch and the spate of injuries. "I am going to work on repairing a few things (injuries on his shoulder) and then I hope to be back again fit and ready," added Jeev.
"I love Thailand and my family is going to be here in the next few days. They wanted to be here as my birthday falls on December 15, the last day of this event."
Chowrasia has lost his European card, but says, "That's alright. I have to now try and get back, just as Shiv (Kapur) did this year. I have had a decent year on Asian tour (he is 14th on the Money List) and next year I will play in Asia, the co-sanctioned events and some European Challenge Tour events. There are times I can feel my game coming back."
The field at the third edition of the Thai Golf Championships is world class, as World number three Henrik Stenson and U.S. Open champion Justin Rose, the fourth ranked player in the world, lead the cast, which also includes the 2012 Masters Tournament winner Bubba Watson and title holder Charl Schwartzel, also the 2011 Masters winner.
Current Asian Tour leader, Kiradech Aphinbarnrat, and fellow Thai, Thongchai Jaidee, a legend in his home country; Ryo Ishikawa of Japan, Hunter Mahan of US and the charismatic Spaniard Sergio Garcia add more muscle to the field.