With his win in the Scottish Open on Sunday,Jeev Milkha Singh not only surpassed compatriot Arjun Atwal with the most wins (four) on the European Tour,but also booked a berth in the British Open,starting later this week which will be played at the Royal Lyntham and St Annes Golf Club in England. The Chandigarh-based golfer emerged triumphant at Iverness,Scotland,despite starting the final day on tied-16th. In the chat with Sportline,Singh,40,talks about his greatest 15-foot birdie putt,his preparations for the Open and why he prefers to reside in London. Excerpts:
On Saturday night,lying so far away from the leaders,did you honestly give yourself a chance at the title? Secondly,what does this win mean?
Yes,I did give myself a chance. I backed myself. I had been playing well in the first three rounds in the recent tournaments and all I wanted to do was to play a good round of golf on Sunday. Its a great feeling to win in Scotland,the home of golf.
Out of all your European Tour wins,where would this one rank?
I have won four tournaments on the European Tour but nothing comes close to this win. With players like world number one Luke Donald playing,the win means a lot more than any of my other wins. It was played on a links course,so I had to constantly use my imagination all the time and hit low golf balls. The conditions were also a bit windy,but in the end,I managed to score one of the most important wins of my career.
What was going through your mind before you sank that 15-foot putt in the last hole? Having lost a playoff in the Ballantines Championship in 2008 to Northern Irelands Graeme McDowell,did you feel any extra pressure?
I just thought that the golfing gods are by my side. Its tough to play in playoffs as we do not play them normally. I had memories of losing to McDowell on the European Tour earlier and I was just thinking about the win. Its been four years since I won a big tournament and I believed that I could do that. The birdie came at the right time for me and it was disappointing for (Francesco) Molinari. I havent slept since. People have constantly been calling me from India and in the morning,dad also told me that even he got calls from all over the world.
Even before you can catch your breath,you will be playing in the British Open starting Thursday,for only the second time after 2007. Are you prepared for the Open,and what are your expectations?
When I came to Scotland to play the one I won,I would be lying if I say that I had not thought about the Open. In 2007,when I participated,I made the cut. But this time,on the back of this win,I want to do even better. I have been playing well in Europe with a seventh-place finish in Scandivian Open last week,and I would say that my form is peaking just in time.
You are the highest ranked non-qualifier at the British Open. Tell us a bit about your preparations.
I will concentrate hard,thats for sure. The conditions will once again be a bit windy and I will be tackling the course in the evening. I love playing in Europe and I have been working on my swing lately,which should come handy in these windy conditions.
My friend and coach Amarinder Singh is here with me and my caddie Jan Squire too knows these conditions very well.
You have gotten back into the top-100 (87) in the rankings,but earlier,you were once ranked as high as 29th in the world. How important are these rankings to a golfer?
Being in the top-50 golfers in the world has always its own advantages. One gets automatic qualification for most of the championships and thats my aim for the coming year. Wins like these does improves rankings and the key would be to play in as many tournaments as I can. I turned 40 last year and I have to stick to my schedule. Mid-way in my career,I did play mostly in Asia but I have to strike out the balance. Thats why Ive got myself a home,here in London.