Pride Of India

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Milkha Singh first did India proud during the 1960 Rome Olympics, breaking the world record for 400 meters (that too while running barefoot). Unfortunately for the ‘Flying Sikh’, so did three other fellow competitors, and he finished 0.1 seconds behind what would have been India’s first (and only) track and field Olympic medal. Nearly fifty years on, his son Chiranjeev is achieving similar heights as his father, even if in a different sport.

Jeev, as he is commonly known, has been a pioneer of sorts for Indian golf, becoming the first member from the country to gain membership to the European Tour in 1997. By the turn of the millennium, he had won four tournaments on the Asian Tour, and was constantly making inroads on the European Tour. Just as his career looked set to blossom, he faced a setback in the form of injuries. Lackluster performances followed, which led to other Indian golfers like Arjun Atwal, Jyoti Randhawa and Shiv Kapur hogging all the limelight. Most thought that Jeev was a spent force.

That was until the year 2006. In April of that year, he won the Volvo China Open, and hence became only the second Indian to have won on the European Tour. With renewed confidence, and a new outlook (he gave it the name of ‘reverse psychology’), Jeev won three more tournaments that year, including the prestigious European tour’s season finale Volvo Masters, along with Japan’s Casio World Open and Golf Nippon Series JT Cup. The spectacular campaign propelled him to inside the Top 50 of the Official World Golf Rankings, making him the first Indian to do so.

Jeev gained entry to the four Major golf tournaments in 2007 by virtue of his ranking and although he failed to make the cut in the British Open and PGA Championship he finished an impressive Tied for 37th in the Masters and Tied for 36th in the US Open,. The highlight for his season was undoubtedly nine holes into the Masters tournament, when he briefly held the lead. The spectators, noticing the surname Singh on top of the leader board, mistook it to be three time major winner and former World Number 1 Vijay Singh. When it was clarified that it was not the Fijian, Jeev became popular amongst the patrons (name given to the spectators of the Masters) as the “other Singh”.

Jeev went winless in 2007, and his ranking dropped to the 80s. So far, this year has begun well, with him having come agonizingly close to winning the Enjoy Jakarta Indonesian Open and the Ballantine’s Championship in South Korea (where he lost a thriller on the third playoff hole to Northern Ireland’s Ryder Cup star Graeme McDowell). His low ranking meant he had failed to earn a direct entry into the Majors this season, but due to his popularity from the previous year at Augusta, the Masters committee sent him a special invite. At the time of writing, Jeev is about to begin his second round at Tied for 15th , and ahead of a certain Mr. Tiger Woods. Could Jeev become the first Indian to win a Major this week? If he does, you’ll get all the insight into his achievement right here by Monday.

Raveesh Bhalla

(image courtesy: http://prempiyush.files.wordpress.com/2006/12/jeev.jpg )

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