The child-like simplicity is endearing. Despite the years of wear and tear on the Tour, Jeev Milkha Singh retains a freshness that allows him to connect instantly with the audience. Soon after the unveiling ceremony of the Avantha Masters, the seasoned pro chuckled while feeling the Swarovski crystals embedded on the V-shaped trophy.
“Looks like diamonds,” and the brief remark was enough to have Gaganjeet Bhullar and Andrew Dodt, the defending champion, to break into a smile.
Going with this attribute, Jeev was clear of the path he would tread on the eve of the $2.3 million (Rs 10 cr) event at the DLF Golf & Country Club. The lower back injury, which forced him out of the Indian Open in December, translates into a state that does not allow him to strike more than 100 ball-a-day during practice. The scenario is far from ideal but the 39-year-old is in no mood to push himself.
“During match days, one is chipping, putting and hitting an average 250 balls. I can't afford the luxury but it's an experience, probably I am working on my patience,” Jeev said.
The pain still makes an occasional appearance but falling back on yoga and fitness training have left him thankful and on the road for the fifth week in a row. The condition has made him introspect and proof lies in the thought process.
“No more painkillers for me,” he declares. “When your body tells you something, you better listen. They (painkillers) are no solution, on the contrary you might end up damaging something else.”
Ranked 115, the focus is on the European Tour this season as he endeavours to break into top-50 again. Jeev is also entitled to a minor medical exemption (of four weeks) on the PGA Tour, but that can wait. “Travelling takes a toll (he plans to take three weeks off after Avantha), I'll need to see when I can avail of it,” he said.
Despite the discomfiture, his craft appears to be in place, having missed the cut just once in the four appearances on the European Tour since January. That bodes well as do the “picture perfect” conditions, which he termed were better since the inaugural chapter last year.
Adding to the belief are his words, “The standards are so high these days that anybody can win.”