16 Nov : Jeev Milkha Singh rode his luck and pluck before laying his hands on the Singapore Open title and the cool USD 795,500 winner’s cheque, which virtually assured him of the Asian Tour Order of Merit title.
Stealthily climbing up the leaderboard, Jeev began the day five shots off the lead but went on to blast a final round of two-under 69 and his aggregate of seven-under 277 was good enough to lift his third title of the year, following the Bank Austria Golf Open on European Tour and the Nagashima Shigeo Invitational Sega Sammy Cup on Japan Tour.
Both Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington needed to birdie the final hole to force a play-off but Harrington could not sink the five foot putt while Els’ 15-footer curled round the lip, much to Jeev’s relief.
"Padraig and Ernie put a good effort in out there but the golfing gods were on my side," a beaming Jeev later said.
"To be honest, I haven’t played that well in the last two weeks so, like I said, the golfing gods have been great to me and things worked really well," said the in-form Indian.
For Jeev, morning showed the day and for the second day on the trot, the Indian got off to a perfect birdie-birdie start.He picked up one more shot on the seventh in an impeccable front nine and was in fact going four-under following the 11th hole birdie before bogeys on the 13th and 16th threatened to provide that twist in the tale.
Two par shots to end the round, and some luck in the process, and Jeev finished with a wafer-thin one shot lead over Els and Harrington, who share six Majors between them.
Jeev also made history on Sunday by becoming the first player to surpass USD one million in earnings in a single season."I could not have asked for more honestly I think I am a very fortunate man to win," said Jeev.
Though Harrington rued missing the title having come so close to it, he said he was happy for the Indian."I’m not going to feel good about this one for the next couple of hours but when I look back at my year, I won’t find it too bad. I’m delighted for Jeev," he said.
Els too was happy for the Indian and said, "The gods were not with me. It could have been a win. But Jeev is a great guy and I’m happy for him," said the South African.
With this win, Jeev is expected to move back into the world’s top-50, which will come with an invite back to the US Masters.The Indian is already exempt in the other three Majors through his finish in Europe.
"It is great. There are too many landmarks! I do not really know what to say. At the end of the day you just want to play good golf and if these things come your way it is fantastic," said Jeev. Jeev, Asia number one in 2006, would now lose the Order of Merit title to Mark Brown only if the New Zealander goes on to win all of the next four Asian Tour titles.
Among others Indians in the fray, Gaurav Ghei carded 76 to settle for tied 22nd with an aggregate of 287.European Tour regular Shiv Kapur (289) brought home one-under 70, to finish 31st, one shot ahead of compatriot Jyoti Randhawa who went three-over 74 on Sunday.
Indian Masters winner SSP Chowrasia aggregated 291 to finish tied 41st, while Digvijay Singh, despite his brilliant start in the tournament, went on to finish tied 58th at 10-over 294.