To quote the Rolling Stones, Gaganjeet Bhullar Can’t Get No Satisfaction.

Winner of 11 titles, which makes him the third most successful player in the history of the Asian Tour, the 35-year-old Indian has now set his sights firmly on winning the Asian Tour Order of Merit.

His craving to become the sixth Indian player to end the year as number one just got more intense after a fantastic 2023, in which the Chandigarh-based professional finished third behind Andy Ogletree and Miguel Tabuena.

It would only be a natural progression for Bhullar, who finished number six in 2009, improved to fifth place in 2012 and 2013, then bettered it to a fourth place in 2018, before the third-place last year.

As he starts a new season at the IRS Prima Malaysian Open this week, Bhullar revealed some of the goals he has set for himself in 2024.

“It’s absolutely a top goal for me,” said Bhullar, winner of the BNI Indonesian Masters presented by TNE last year, following which he also won the season-ending TATA Steel Tour Championship on the domestic Indian Tour. “So many of my friends have done that, and I am very eager to join that club.

“When I won in Indonesia, the field was stacked as it was an International Series event. I played with Patrick Reed, who is a major champion, on Saturday. Winning that tournament has given me a different outlook. I personally feel that I’m ready to step up the game and I’m ready to go for the Order of Merit.”

A by-product of that, even though it involves him doing well on The International Series Order of Merit, would be his other goal of making it to LIV Golf in 2025. The number one player on International Series is guaranteed a spot in the LIV Golf League.

“Ever since I turned pro 17 years ago, I have always made goals for the year. These days, you must be very specific. It’s like you need to know exactly which flight are you taking? Which hotel are you staying in? How do you get there? If you have planned before, things become a lot easier,” said Bhullar, who made it to the final stage of the LIV Promotions event last year, but faltered on the final day.

“We all are very aware of the situation golf is in. The lack of world ranking points on the Asian Tour, and other Tours, is shocking. I won the PGTI Tour Championship, and I got just 1.4 points for it, whereas it used to be seven points in previous years. The Asian Tour has decided to go the Saudi way, the LIV way. So, making it to LIV Golf is another big goal. I keep watching my friend Anirban (Lahiri) playing with all these top stars, and to be able to play with guys like Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka really inspires me.”

Bhullar, one of the straightest hitters of the golf ball, has also set his sights on some stats-related goals.

“In 2021 and ’22, I struggled a bit with my driving. Even though I was playing well and the stats were still saying that I was hitting a lot of fairways, I was just not happy with my driving accuracy. I worked a lot on my driver last year and the result was that I won the driving accuracy on the Asian Tour. I think I achieved close to 82 per cent fairway,” said Bhullar.

“Once you are on the fairway, you don’t have much pressure. You know that whatever happens, I’d end up making a par for sure. That is one of my goal this year that I’m going to be consistent in my use of driver. Also, last year I was quite good with my putting inside eight feet. To continue doing that is on top of my agenda. The years I’ve performed well in driving and putting, I have won and contended in tournaments.

“Scrambling is one stat I would love to improve. I thought that’s where I failed a bit last two seasons (he was 72nd in the scrambling in 2023 at 54 per cent).”

Bhullar hasn’t played much golf in his six weeks of off-season, instead focusing on his body and mind.

“I mostly stayed away from golf. Spent a lot of time with family. But through this time off, I’ve been working a lot on my fitness, because I won’t get much time from February all the way until May or June. So, I worked the last five weeks on my body – my balance, the core and the glutes,” said Bhullar.

“I reckoned this was the time to do it and get the body in shape. Once the tournament starts, you want to focus on how you practice, what you eat and how you travel. The fitness level will go down over the next 4-5 months, so I need it to be high up at the start of the season.”

Working on his mental strength has been an ongoing process for the Indian.

“I don’t have a swing coach right now. I personally give more importance to the mental side. I’ve worked with several psychologists and self-hypnosis experts in the past. I feel once you have achieved that calmness in your mind, the swing, the short game and the timing, everything finds its own route… everything comes back into the game,” he explained.

“The last three years, I’ve been working with Dr Tarun Jain. We have been brainstorming on a lot of things, like how my body reacts under pressure. What I need to do better under pressure? How my body reacts in summer weather, and how is it different from the winters. I give a lot of data to him, and we try to come up with a good masterplan for each week.”

A refreshed Bhullar can’t wait to return to the golf course, the excitement heightened by the fact that the IRS Prima Malaysian Open is being played at Mines Resort, a golf course he loves.

“I was talking to my mum and dad a couple of days ago. They were there in Malaysia 12 years ago, when I played at the Mines and I had a top-10 finish in the CIMB Championship against all the PGA Tour stars. It was a long time ago, but still feels like as if it was part of last year’s schedule,” he reminisced.

“The golf course really suits my eye. I played well on it back in the day, and I’m hoping that I will play even better now.”

- Advertisement -