FIJI: Gaganjeet Bhullar shot a solid 2-under 70 on a difficult and wind-swept day at the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways on Thursday.
Bhullar, making his maiden appearance in Fiji was one of the only 18 players who posted a sub-par round at the picturesque Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course.
While Bhullar was lying Tied-8th, Ajeetesh Sandhu recovered superbly from being 3-over after 13 to finish at 1-over following three birdies between 14th and 17th holes. He was T-33.
Chiragh Kumar shot 5-over 77, while Shiv Kapur, second last week in Pattaya, was swept away to 8-over 80, with seven bogeys, a double bogey and just one birdie.
Australia’s Andrew Dodt, searching for his first Asian Tour win since 2015, was off to a flying start at 5-under-par 67 to grab a share of the first round lead with Australian compatriots Jarryd Felton and Nicholas Cullen and Kiwi Ben Campbell.
Bhullar, who began on the 10th, had four birdies against two bogeys as he managed to find all fairways despite blustery conditions.
Bhullar, seeking his first title of the current season and the ninth of his career, opened with a birdie on 11th, but gave that shot away on the next hole. He traded a birdie on 16th with a bogey on 18th. On the second nine, the front side of the course, Bhullar birdied first and third holes and moved into red figures and parred the remaining seven for a 70.
“It was a good round of golf. I think I gave myself a lot of opportunities. It was quite windy in the morning but I managed to keep my ball in play. I hit about 13 greens in regulation today. So it was a good, solid round of golf,” Bhullar said.
“I don’t think anything’s missing in my game. I just need to have more patience and some more maturity towards my weekend rounds. Apart from that, it has been a solid season so far.”
“I think the key would be that I’m keeping the ball in play. So as long as the ball is in play, you’re giving yourself birdie opportunities. I just to keep on doing what I’ve been doing and everything will click, it’s just a matter of time. I need to be more aggressive. So that’s what I’ve been struggling with lately,” added Bhullar.
Sandhu, dividing his time between Asian and European Tours, was 3-over after 13 holes but three birdies on 14th, 15th and 17th helped him get back to 1-over.
Vijay Singh, who designed the course here also struggled to 4-over 76, while Ernie Els, captain for International Team’s captain for President’s Cup 2019, shot even par 72 and was T-19.
The 32-year-old Dodt enjoyed a bogey-free round, which included three birdies and an eagle.