AUGUSTA (Georgia) April 9:Chandigarh-based Indian ace professional Jeev Milkha Singh was handed a dream draw at the Masters Tournament where he will play alongside British Open champion Padraig Harrington and 2003 Masters winner Mike Weir in the opening two rounds.
"I’m really excited. In Padraig and Mike, they are two nice guys. I’ve played with them often enough and I’m looking forward to it," said the 2006 Asian Tour number one.Son of legendary runner Milkha Singh, Jeev is making his second straight appearance in the year’s opening Major after receiving a special invitation from Augusta National Golf Club. In his debut, he finished tied 37th and he hopes to improve on his record.
"It’s a great feeling, the second time my dream has come true. I qualified for the Masters last year and now I couldn’t have asked for a better invite in my life. I’m really excited to be here. The golf course is in excellent condition and I’m looking forward to a good week," said Jeev Milkha.
The tenacious Indian is showing signs of reproducing his best form once again after a magical 2006 season which saw him win four times around the world and the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit.
He endured a frustrating and winless season last year but Jeev has already come close twice in 2008, finishing runner-up at the Enjoy Jakarta Astro Indonesia Open and Ballantine’s Championship in Korea.
"I’m happy with my game, it’s in good shape right now. I like this golf course as it suits my style. Hopefully I have a good week. I’ll just go out there and give it a good shot. Last year, I learnt quite a bit and I’ve made a few changes. Hopefully I’ve learnt enough to make full use of it," said Jeev, who finished tied 39th in the Shell Houston Open on Sunday.
"This is my favourite Major championship. When I was growing up, we used to get the video tapes three weeks after the Masters and whoever who got the tapes, it was the ultimate as those days, we didn’t have live television.
"Obviously there is always pressure on you, especially when I’m playing in my favourite Major. But we are all professionals and we can handle the pressure and make the most of it."
With golf enjoying an exciting phase of growth in the sub-continent where there are four Asian Tour events on the Schedule this year, Jeev knows that another good showing at Augusta National will go a long way in encouraging young Indian players to emulate and better his feats.
"They see me play in a tournament like this, they start believing in themselves too," said Jeev. "It’s happening now as golf is the fastest growing sport in our country. A lot more youngsters are coming up," he added.