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Sharma, Bhullar relish playing top stars in new event in Saudi


Press Trust of India Jeddah
Indian golfers Shubhankar Sharma and Gaganjeet Bhullar are excited to tee up in the company of world's top-three golfers at the Saudi International, a new event in the European Tour, beginning here Thursday.
The field this week has four of the world's top-5 players, including No. 1 Justin Rose, No. 2 Brooke Koepka, No. 3 Dustin Johnson and for good measure, there is No. 5 Bryson DeChambeau as well.
Justin flew in straight from Torrey Pines, where he won the Farmers Insurance for a 10th career win on the PGA, Koepka took two of the four Majors last year and Johnson has had at least three wins in each of his last three season, while DeChambeau had four wins in 2018 and also won last week in Dubai.
The field also has the last two Masters champions -- Sergio Garcia, the 2017 winner and Patrick Reed, the 2018 champion; and the 2016 Open winner, Henrik Stenson and four-time Major champion, Ernie Els and Trevor Immelman, the 2008 Masters winner.
An additional element this week is Rayhan Thomas, who is ranked No. 16 among World amateurs, who has been given one of the invitations.
"Playing in the same events as the World's best is what we all want and it is indeed rare to get a chance outside of the Majors or the WGCs. So I really relish the prospect of being here this week," Sharma said.
"Last year I played on new courses most of the time because I had never played most events in Europe or the US. This year I will get to play many of them again. But for now, a big purse event is welcome, as I want to do well and get my rankings up again.
"Last week was alright, but I could have done way better, so hopefully I can make up this week," added the Indian, whose next assignment after this will be the WGC-Mexico, where he was Tied-9th in 2018.
Another Indian in fray, Bhullar, who is now armed with a European Tour card after his win in Fiji last year, is also excited with this new big-ticket event.
"The 16-17-18 remind me of the course in Fiji, where I won the Fiji International. I am feeling good and am all set to go and this year I am going to play as much as I can and in as many places," he said.
Bhullar, who has been playing well but not been scoring on account of some unlucky breaks and missed putts, could also have some advantage on the greens which are somewhat slower to those usually seen on the European Tour, including in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Even as the world's best jostle for No. 1 position, the Indian duo of Sharma and Bhullar will be looking to get closer to Top-100.

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First Published: Jan 30 2019 | 9:00 PM IST

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