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Sunday, 05 August 2018
Gaganjeet Bhullar  (Getty Images)
Gaganjeet Bhullar (Getty Images)

Gaganjeet Bhullar held off a charging Anthony Quayle to claim his first European Tour title at the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways.

The Indian entered the final day at Natadola Bay Golf Club with a one-shot lead but found himself trailing late in the day as Australian Quayle came home in 29 and set the target at 13 under in the clubhouse.

A brilliant chip-in eagle on the 17th moved Bhullar back into the lead and he held his nerve to par the last and sign for a 66 that gave him a one-shot victory over Quayle, who finished with a brilliant 63.

Four-time Major Championship winner Ernie Els signed for a closing 65 to finish at 12 under alongside New Zealander Ben Campbell.

Bhullar was playing his 106th European Tour event this week and is now exempt until the end of next season after adding to his Challenge Tour win in 2011 and eight Asian Tour victories.

Bhullar's triumph is the third Indian victory of the season after Shubhankar Sharma's double, and 16th Indian win in European Tour history.

"I've been playing really well," he said. "It was just a matter of time and I'm glad it happened on this stage and really happy to be back on the European Tour.

"I played two full seasons back in 2013 and 2014 on the European Tour and then I had to come back to the Asian Tour because of my injury. So I think this victory is really emotional for me in terms of playing opportunity and getting back on the European soil."

The birdies were coming thick and fast from all the challengers early in the day but Bhullar would not be overtaken as he made gains on the first and third, and when he holed from 12 feet on the fourth, he led by two.

The 30 year old failed to get up and down after missing the green on the seventh and when Campbell turned in 32 with birdies on the first, second, third and ninth, the lead was shared again.

It was just a matter of time and I'm glad it happened on this stage and really happy to be back on the European Tour - Gaganjeet Bhullar

Quayle had birdied the first, fifth and sixth - via a chip-in - but he was still trailing as Bhullar took advantage of the par five ninth.

The 23 year old then holed a long putt on the 11th and drove the green on the 12th before holing from 20 feet for an eagle to get into double figures. A tee-shot to eight feet on the 13th brought another birdie before he holed a bunker shot on the 14th.

Bhullar then holed from the fringe on the 13th and after Campbell holed a ten-footer on the same hole and put his tee-shot to tap-in range on the 15th, he was in a tie at the top.

The drama was relentless and after Quayle got a fortunate bounce out of a bunker off the tee on the 17th, he put his second to ten feet for another eagle and was in the lead.

Bhullar produced his spectacular chip-in on the 17th and two perfect shots into the final green set up a closing par.

"That was pretty awesome out there," said Quayle. "I got to play with Ernie and played a pretty awesome back nine there. I'm pretty happy with it."

A bogey on the 16th had essentially ended Campbell's chances but he bounced back with a birdie on the 17th in a 66.

Els chipped in for an eagle on the first and when he added a birdie on the third, European Tour title number 29 looked very much on the cards. A bogey on the fifth left him playing catch up and despite making further gains on the ninth, 11th, 14th, 17th and last, the gap was too large.

"I did almost as much as I could," said Els. "I set out to try to shoot 65, which I did, and Anthony just played unbelievable. Jeez, what is it, 29 on the back nine? That's unbelievable stuff. Great golf and well deserved.

"I'm pleased with my round and pleased with the tournament and it's been really a lot of fun in Fiji."

Australian Jarryd Felton signed for a 69 to finish at ten under, a shot clear of countrymen Andrew Dodt and Jake McLeod, and Thailand's Poom Saksansin.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1BHULLAR, GaganjeetIND18-14
2QUAYLE, AnthonyAUS18-13
T3ELS, ErnieRSA18-12
T3CAMPBELL, BenNZL18-12
5FELTON, JarrydAUS18-10
T6SAKSANSIN, PoomTHA18-8

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