Tait: Scottish Open champ Singh breaks golf's mold
Those who say all golfers come from the same mold need look no further than Scotland’s newest national champion – Jeev Milkha Singh.
Singh won the €2.5 Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart in a playoff with Italy’s Francesco Molinari after the pair had tied on 17-under 271. Singh holed a 12-foot putt on the first playoff hole to take the title and the €518,046 first-place check.
India isn’t known for producing great golfing heroes, but Singh has managed to forge a career for himself that has seen him win four European Tour titles and another 15 wins around the world. All with a golf swing that breaks the mold.
Singh hails from Chandigarth, India and could have been forgiven for taking to sports far more physical than the Royal & Ancient game. Singh's father Milkha was known as “The Flying Sikh.” He lost out on an Olympic 400 meters medal in a photo finish in the 1960 Rome Olympics. A Bollywood film is currently being made about his life called "Go Milkha Go"
Cricket is the national game in Singh’s homeland, yet Jeev chose golf as the career he wanted to pursue. Wise choice.
Singh made history in 1997 when he became the first Indian player to qualify for the European Tour by winning his card at the European Tour Qualifying School. It took him nine more years to find the winner’s circle. In 2006, he won the Volvo China Open and the Volvo Masters.
He added a further victory in 2008 when he triumphed in the Austria Golf Open. Not bad for a guy who looks like he couldn’t break 80.
Singh’s swing is entirely his own making. He picks the club up steeply and lays it off at the top, but it works for him.
Singh took the college route to success. He played for Abilene Christian University, winning the NCAA Division II Championship in 1993. He also won the Southern Oklahoma State Open Championship.
In 2007, Singh became the first Indian golfer to play in the Masters.
Singh’s victory in Scotland comes after a run of two poor seasons in Europe. After finishing 12th on the 2008 money list and 34th a year later, Singh slipped to 74th and 94th the last two seasons.
He has been plagued by back problems recently, too, so his win in Scotland came as something of a surprise.
“It has been really tough – frustrating than anything else,” Singh said. “You feel like your game is coming back and another injury creeps up, but I just stuck myself in there and said that you need to work on the physical side, and I worked hard on that. Everything has paid off, and I just want to think about the good things and not what's past and I want to look towards the future now.”
Singh’s win means he takes a spot at Royal Lytham in the 141st Open Championship. It’s his second appearance in the game’s oldest championship. He missed the cut at Carnoustie in 2007.
“I just love links golf,” Singh said.
That wasn’t his opinion the first time he played golf by the sea. When he was 16 he tried to qualify for the 1988 British Amateur Championship at Royal Porthcawl and Pyle and Kenfig. He failed with scores of 87 and 84. “I thought 'My God, this is tough'. I wasn't used to wearing raingear.”
Golf isn’t so tough now for the affable Indian. And the game has brought him the sort of recognition his father received for his efforts in athletics. In 2007, Singh received the Padma Shri in his homeland, India’s fourth highest civil honor, and the equivalent of a British knighthood.