Kuala Lumpur, March 18 (IANS) Asian Tour stars Gaganjeet Bhullar and Kiradech Aphibarnrat believe they can raise their game to greater heights after missing the chance to win the Avantha Masters in India Sunday.
Bhullar, a four-time Asian Tour winner, produced a superb closing round of eight-under-par 64 in the final round of the Avantha Masters but it was only good enough to finish second behind Thomas Aiken of South Africa, who romped to a three-shot victory.
The young Indian's wonderful effort has propelled him to the top of the Asian Tour Order of Merit where he leads with earnings of $262,648.
"There were plenty of positives from the week. I was hitting it straight throughout the tournament and my iron-striking also improved. My course management has improved a lot over the last seven years on the Asian Tour," said Bhullar.
The 24-year-old will continue his friendly rivalry with Aiken at the $2.75 million Maybank Malaysian Open which gets underway Thursday.
Former world number one Luke Donald of England, multiple Major winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland, Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, reigning Asian Tour number one Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand and two-time Malaysian Open champion Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand will headline the event at the magnificent Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.
Bhullar is confident he can carry his momentum into the Malaysian Open, which is co-sanctioned with the European Tour, and extend his lead on the Order of Merit.
"I have a strong feeling that with my current form, another tournament win is just around the corner," said the Indian, who earned 12 Official World Golf Ranking points and moved up to 85th in the world.
Thailand's Kiradech, touted as Asia's John Daly for his grip-it and rip-it style of play, has been in top form where he has been in contention at the Avantha Masters and the season-opening Zaykabar Myanmar Open before finishing fourth and third respectively.
Kiradech moved to third position on the Order of Merit with earnings of $135,900, some $11,000 behind second-placed Liang Wen-chong of China, who finished third at the Avantha Masters which included a magical hole-in-one during the final round.
Korea's Baek Seuk-hyun moved to fourth position on the Merit list with $107,323 while Anirban Lahiri of India, who won his third Asian Tour title at the SAIL-SBI Open on home soil two weeks ago, is fifth with $74,124.
Scott Hend of Australia ($72,915), Chawalit Plaphol of Thailand ($70,971) and Mithun Perera of Sri Lanka ($51,396) are placed sixth, seventh and eighth respectively.