The monkey is off my back, says Jeev | india | Hindustan Times
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The monkey is off my back, says Jeev

In an exclusive interview soon after the victory, Jeev spoke of the long wait and the way ahead.

india Updated: Apr 16, 2006 21:39 IST

Jeev Milkha Singh, India's first big hero on the Asian PGA Tour, came to Beijing as an amateur in 1990 when he represented India at the Asian Games.

Sixteen years later, the Chinese capital seemed to have infused a fresh lease of life into a career that has been very meaningful for Indian golf yet without a win for the last seven years.

Jeev, 34, now has five titles on Asian Tour, but today's victory was his first on the European Tour as the Volvo China Open is a co-sanctioned event between the Asian and European Tours.

In an exclusive interview soon after the victory, Jeev spoke of the long wait and the way ahead.

Q: It's been a long seven years and now you're here with a big trophy?

I just can't explain this feeling. It's like a dream come true. I've always tried hard to win and today, I just went in there with reverse psychology thinking that if it doesn't happen, never mind. I just wanted to give it my best shot. And it worked out perfectly for me.

I'm really excited and happy the way it worked out. The seven-year-itch is over and the monkey is off my back.

Q: What was the key for you out there?

I focussed really well today. My composure was good too. I think two putts coming into the last two hole made a lot of difference. I made a birdie on the 14th and a good putt for par on 15th. Coming into the 18th, I saw Govzalo Fernandez-Castano was 10-under and had bogeyed the 18th. I was on the left side of the fairway in the rough and decided that I would not try to be a hero and go for the flag and instead play safe. If I make a par, good, but if I made bogey, I'd still win the tournament.

Q: Can you tell us what happened at the 11th hole?

I hit my drive left and didn't think it would go that far left. I don't know what happened. My ball was down there and a guy was walking with it in his hand. Then he couldn't understand me and I asked someone from Richtone (promoter) who spoke English to please ask him where the golf ball was.

There were so many people saying so many things to him that he got confused and just let the ball go and I didn't know where he put it. I told him to relax and the rules official came and told him to tell me where the ball stopped.

While he was doing it, someone from the gallery came out and kicked him! I called the rules official who told me where to drop the ball and I played it from there.

Q: You're an attacking player but on 18th you held back which is not the Jeev we know?

I have let so many tournaments go in the last four or five years that I learned that it hadn't worked for me. So I might as well step back. When I saw that guy bogey, I thought I did not need to get the water into play on the left and just decided to hit to the right of the green. If I two putt, well and good, but I would have won with a three putt too.

Q: Did the recent losses (he finished second five times since 1999) play in your mind before the day started?

It did play on my mind. I think I used to put more pressure on myself playing in the last round to try and get the job done. I've let so many tournaments go and I just said if it's another one, let it be. If I play well, it'll be a bonus. If I don't it's one of those weeks and I'm going to keep trying.

Q: Two years exemption now in Europe, will you take it again?

I'm going to play in a few events for sure. The main tour that I've been playing has been in Japan in the last four or five years and I'll see how things go. I'm going to divide my time. Obviously, I'll play in Asia, a few in Europe and Japan.

Q: After your wrist injury (in 2000), how gratifying is this win?

It's fantastic. When I was injured, I didn't know if I was going to come back in the sport. When I came back I wasn't thinking the same way. I was struggling, I was putting pressure on myself and getting down. And after that, you don't think right.

I started working hard and the wrist became better and things started looking up for me. I've just won and it's one of the best feelings. I took a medical exemption for one year in 2000.

Q: Your father (Milkha Singh) is a hero in India, will you be a hero in India?

I hope so, but I think my dad is a bigger hero still! 

Q: Your father wanted you to be an athlete and when you wanted to play golf, he wanted you to be the best?

That's right. He's been a true sportsman and he's been a big support in my life. He's the man who speaks the way he does and he tells you straight up. He told me "if you want to take up the sport, you might as well give your best to be the best, otherwise do something else." He would be proud of me today but I'm sure he'd expect more from me!

Q: Could golf become the new cricket in India?

I think so. But I think it'll take a few years. Cricket is a religion in our country. Golf is our number two sport. We've got some young kids coming up and we've got Arjun Atwal and Jyoti Randhawa and have Shiv Kapur and Rahil Gangjee who have great potential. If we keep performing well, golf will become bigger in our country. I don't think it'll be as big as cricket but if it gets closer, we'll be happy.

Q: How well do you know Vijay Singh?

Yes I know (him), I've played a few practice rounds with him on the European Tour and I've always taken his advice about practising but I can't keep up with him as he practises a lot more than I do.

Q: What are your expectations now?

I would be happy if I can win on the US Tour and then from there on, we'll have higher targets set. That'll be my goal.

Q: How will you spend your prize money?

I don't know. When I get it, maybe I'll buy a house or maybe put it in the real estate or the stock market.