“Time for payback,” say Asian stars

Gaganjeet Bhullar ©David Paul Morris/Asian Tour

Kuala Lumpur: Asian Tour champions Gaganjeet Bhullar and David Lipsky believe the region’s top golfers can trump the Tiger Woods-led PGA Tour stars at the US$6.1 million CIMB Classic which starts on Thursday.Americans Ben Crane and Bo Van Pelt have been victorious in the tournament’s first two editions at the Mines Resort and Golf Club but the Asian Tour regulars reckon it is time for payback.

“Oh, yeah, no doubt,” replied Lipsky when asked if an Asian Tour player could pull off victory this week.

“I know the guys I play against week in and week out … they have the game to shoot 20 under, 25 under here that it took last year. Thaworn (Wiratchant) is playing really well and Marcus (Fraser) is playing well too. So I wouldn’t be surprised if one of those guys won this week,” added the American, who is enjoying an impressive rookie season.

The 24-year-old Bhullar, who has won two tournaments in Taipei and Macau in the past two months, is pinning his hopes on the Asian stars to shine.

“Golf is no longer only the PGA Tour. If you look at the Ryder Cup or a few of the big tours, players are coming off from all over the world. I played with K.J. Choi a few weeks ago in Korea, and he was telling me golf is a global game now. Anybody from any country can come and win a big tournament,” said Bhullar.

“Obviously we have 10 top players from the Asian Tour this week. It could be anybody’s week, especially playing on Asian soil. It’s a benefit for Asian Tour players because we have been playing in this kind of conditions for the last few years.”

Bhullar is relishing the opportunity to take on the stars from America, especially world number two and 14-time Major champion Woods, who is the top attraction at the CIMB Classic this week.

In fact, the Indian had a close encounter with Woods during his practice round today when the American showed up at the tee box. “He was standing right behind the tee box waiting for me to clear it,” said the Indian, ranked fifth on the Order of Merit.

“I don’t know if I should say yes or no (if he was intimidated) but I think a bit. Suddenly you see Tiger Woods standing right behind your tee box, obviously, it’s kind of intimidating. But everybody’s at the same level, and at this tournament, everybody wants to win this tournament.

“Tiger Woods is a legend, and a living legend. What he has done, no one else has done in this generation. I think all of Asia is getting excited to see him this week.”

Lipsky is enjoying a truly remarkable rookie professional year, first winning the Asian Tour’s Qualifying School in January and then following up with a first pro title at the HANDA FALDO Cambodian Classic. He has since posted four other top-five finishes to be ranked sixth on the Merit list.

“Playing with these players in a PGA Tour event is a dream come true. Growing up in the U.S. and being in an event like this is what I always dreamed of doing. I was working toward this since I was a little kid. So I’m really excited to be here,” said Lipsky.

The Korean-American is also excited at the prospect of teeing up in the same tournament as Woods. “Oh, yeah, he’s an idol of mine growing up. I’m from Southern California as well as Tiger, so growing up, watching golf, he’s been a hero of mine. It’s crazy. It’s a dream come true to be playing in the same event as him.”