October 22 2013
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
Two of India's best young players have come to Malaysia this week with big dreams.
Gaganjeet Bhullar has his sights set on gaining ground in the race for the Asian Tour Order of Merit where he currently stands third. Anirban Lahiri, on the other hand, makes his first appearance in the CIMB Classic riding momentum borne of a closing 62 and a runner-up finish Sunday at the Venetian Macau Open.
But that's not all. Bhullar and Lahiri are both hoping to get closer to their goal of playing the PGA TOUR.
"That's my destination," said Bhullar, who tied for 10th last year.
"The way I look at it is you get a good performance in right now, and you can open up a lot of doors," Lahiri agreed. "You can open up like America, for instance, if you play well enough, maybe get some kind of status, some conditional status if anything else, even if you don't win."
The CIMB Classic field, which has increased from 48 to 78 players, is a formidable one, though. It features the top 60 available players from 2013's final FedExCup points list as well as the top 10 from the Asian Tour Order of Merit (as of Oct. 7) and eight sponsor exemptions.
The stakes are high for everyone.
In addition to 500 FedExCup points and a two-year PGA TOUR exemption, the winner this week (if not previously eligible) receives invitations to the Masters, PGA, PLAYERS Championship and Hyundai Tournament of Champions. The player would also earn exemptions into six additional invitationals.
"So it's a huge difference from last year and the years past," Lahiri said. "The presence of the event has obviously gone up, the importance has gone up. I think it's also reflected by the kind of field that's here this week.
"We've had some very good players, some marquee players, but a lot of players this week are top 50 in the world because everybody wants to play and get a win early in the year and seal up their cards and get their FedExCup points going up.
"It's a very important event for everyone who is here this week. Not just the Asian top players."