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Gentle giant on the greens

Back after 2004, Fijian Vijay Singh is impressed with Indian golf, reports Robin Bose.

other Updated: Feb 27, 2008 14:43 IST
Robin Bose

Mention the WGC-Accenture Match Play and the smile quickly melts into a wistful look. As a hard-boiled pro, Vijay Singh may have attuned himself to the disappointment of two days ago but the angst remains.

The world No. 11 reached the quarter-finals of the World Golf Championship at the Gallery Golf Club in Tucson, Arizona, before being losing narrowly to Justin Leonard for a tied-fifth finish.

“It’s one of those performances that’s difficult to fathom, said the strapping Fijian of Indian descent. “The form was good hence the disappointment is more that I could not move up,” he said ruefully looking down at the mud stuck at the tip of his shoes.

Not one to dwell in melancholy for long, the crack golfer changed tack and shifted focus on the task at hand — dislodging defending champion

Anton Haig en route to the Johnnie Walker Classic title and a purse of euros 276, 387.

Vijay was upbeat about the premium event, in existence since 1992, coming to the terrain of his forefathers.

“Indian golf is doing well, it was only appropriate that an event of this magnitude has graced this land and I am happy to be a part of the process,” he said, about the tournament that has the blessings of the European Tour along with the Asian Tour and Professional Golfers Tour of India.

Vijay’s last sojourn to India was at the DLF Golf and Country Club for the Bilt Skins in 2004 (he won the inaugural event in 2002) shortly after disturbing Tiger Woods from the top perch.

The effort put in at the course in the ensuing years left the gentle giant impressed. Notwithstanding the turbulent conditions for the second day running, Vijay warmed up sufficiently with an extensive session at the driving range. The outcome was a feel-good reaction as he looked to thrive in the demanding conditions.

“The undulating nature of the greens makes them challenging and you need to map yourself well,” he said, while making his way to the greens for an actual feel of the course.

After 26 years as a professional and a rollicking record on the US PGA Tour - he’s tied with Harry Cooper as the most prolific non-American on the Tour with 31 titles — the 45-year-old is immune to being pursued and clicked non-stop. But the man makes no bones about when he wants a line to be drawn.

Trailed and tested by lensmen from the driving range, a huge palm was raised in protest soon after setting foot on the 10th tee. “No more please, let me be,” came the firm request that put an end to the photo opportunity.

Order restored, Vijay scanned the course while leaning on a metallic shaft. The conglomeration of contestants on the narrow stretch not to his liking, he looked beyond and decided to make his way to the uninhabited 1st.

Teeing-off, Vijay persevered till the 13th green before retiring to vacate the centrestage for the Page Three regulars, who jostled to share the spotlight with his ilk - Colin Montgomerie, Adam Scott and Sam Torrance.