Jeev Milkha Singh has done it again. Last year, he became the first Indian to play at the US Masters and finished at a creditable 36 rank. He has bettered that feat this year by finishing 25– the best ever performance at the Majors by an Indian. This is yet another feather in the cap of the trailblazer of Indian Golf.
Of course, Jeev is now in a different league as a golfer. He performs all over the world, adjusts comfortably to different courses, does not get rattled by the quality of the opposition and most importantly, does not get satisfied too easily. We Indians, typically, get satisfied too easily in sports – our lads giving the top guns a run for their money is generally good enough for us. Luckily, Jeev is unlike most Indians. He did not follow his dad’s footsteps and get into athletics; instead, he took up golf and went to College in the US, where he honed his game on the collegiate tour. He became a professional when making a living in the sport was difficult and toiled fruitlessly for seven years without a title but never gave up. Now, even after building a resume which makes him the greatest Indian golfer by a distance, he continues to have the same hunger and the relentless drive which he had at the beginning of his career.
Now for some perspective on his 25 place finish at the Augusta Masters.
Golf is the most popular Individual sport in the world. In terms of its competitiveness, its level is very similar to football’s among team sports. Therefore, while a twenty-fifth position might mathematically equate to a third round appearance at Wimbledon, this comparisons is as irrational as comparing the tenth ranked football nation (currently the mighty Netherlands) to the tenth ranked hockey team (no information available on the FIH website regarding this) or tenth ranked cricket nation (as of now the great Ireland team)
The Augusta Masters is the Holy Grail of golf, the golfing equivalent of Wimbledon and the Tour de France. It does not get any bigger than this.
In golf, every course is different and unique in its own way. Thus, the level of familiarity with the course layout has a direct impact on a player’s performance. Jeev’s performance becomes even more creditable when you consider that he was playing at Augusta for only the second time.
Moreover, while it will be unfair to compare it to the title-winning feats in Indian sports, it is definitely as noteworthy and as laudable as any non-medal winning achievement in Indian sports. It does not match up to the ‘83 Cricket World Cup win, the numerous Hockey golds, the All-England triumphs of Padukone and Gopichand , Vishy Anand’s world titles , the cue sport victories of Geet Sethi and Company and all the other Olympic medals. However, it deserves to be mentioned in the same vein as India’s fourth place finish in football in the 1956 Olympics; the finals appearances in the Davis Cup; the Olympic feats of PT Usha Sriram Singh and like; Ramanathan Krishnan’s semi-final appearance at Wimbledon; and most importantly for Jeev, Milkha Singh’s fourth place finish in the Rome Olympics of 1960. The son has finally become as tall as his father.
Milkha Singh has always said that his most cherished dream is to see an Indian athlete win an Olympic medal. The possibility of Jeev getting one ended years ago and no one looks capable of fulfilling this wish in the Flying Sikh’s lifetime. Jeev’s latest Augusta performance, however, should more than compensate for his father’s unrealized dream.
The best part, as mentioned earlier, is that Jeev is not one to sit on his laurels. ‘Unlike most Indians’, he will dream of winning the Masters crown and strive tirelessly to achieve it. Going by his past record, a fulfilment of the dream cannot be ruled out.
As for us (the typical Indians), it is time we realized that there is a sporting world beyond the mediocrity of cricket and there exist Indian sportsmen who dare to dream big.
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