WITH 13 Major appearances in his career, 45-year-old Chandigarh golfer Jeev Milkha Singh remains the only Indian golfer to have played in ten or more majors. With fellow golfer and compatriot Anirbhan Lahiri a close second with eight appearances, Jeev will join the world number 56 Lahiri in his fifth US Open starting Thursday at Oakmount, US, after being the first alternate golfer during the sectional qualifiers held in England last month.
During a chat with Chandigarh Newsline, the golfer speaks about his qualification, playing golf at 45, experiences of playing in the US Open, his dip in rankings and the last three seasons.
It will be the fifth US Open appearance for you. How do you see it?
I am looking forward to it. The Major championships have a charm and the US Open is always special for me. I spent my early years in golf playing in the US and it always remains special for me. My best finish of tied 36th came at Oakmont Golf Course and it will be a challenge to compete at the course. Phil Mickelson has already termed it as the hardest golf course he played in. I think adjusting to the roughs will be a challenge.
You played in the qualifiers, missing a tournament in Europe/Asia. Was it an instant decision for you?
I always say there is no ego as a professional golfer. Yes, my ranking has been low in the last three seasons. To play in sectional qualifiers among some of the youngest golfers in Europe does motivate you. It was cold in Surrey and I played 36 holes in a single day. I was tied for the last three spots for a play-off and it was a narrow miss for me in the play-offs. Since Europe could not get an alternate spot after Thongchai Jaidee withdrew, I got the chance and I am aiming at a good finish.
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You remain the highest ranked Indian ever with best ranking of 28. Now you are placed in the 700s. How tough has been the last three seasons for you?
It has been a challenge. But then I have been pushing myself to play in as many as tournaments. There have been some injuries but I will take some good from the seventh place finish in the Thailand Classic, my only top-ten finish after three years. I was in good touch in Indian Open. I still feel that there are some years of golf left in me. The focus is on being injury-free.
Most of your wins came on European Tour and Asian Tour. What are your plans for the season?
European Tour as well as Asian Tour are important for me and I will be playing in 20 tournaments in the European Tour this season. I have got a conditional card for the European Tour and some of the invitations are due to me being past winner. It’s important to keep playing as I finished at the second last spot to earn my conditional card. But then it gives me a chance to play in European Tour and earn some valuable points.
Anirbhan Lahiri has leap-frogged in the golf rankings in the last two years and also improved the best performance by you in a Major by claiming the tied fifth spot in PGA Championships last year. What are your views on him?
It’s good to see someone young performing well at the world level. We did it earlier and now he is doing it consistently. He has got a good head on his shoulders and I watched him play in the Euroasia Cup earlier this year. Hopefully, he will make the cut for Rio Olympics along with SSP Chaurasia and we will be watching them.