Jeev soars to landmark win in Singapore (Lead)

November 16th, 2008 - 7:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Sentosa (Singapore), Nov 16 (IANS) Playing against two proven winners, who have three Majors each, India’s Jeev Milkha Singh held off Padraig Harrington and Ernie Els in a crunch situation to win the $5 million Barclays Singapore Open Sunday and announced his arrival at golf’s biggest stage.Jeev, whose win at the Volvo Masters in Valderrama in 2006 was overshadowed by Harrington winning the European Order of Merit, won by a shot over Harrington and Els.

His final round card of 69 gave him a total of seven-under 277, for a one-shot win, that sealed the Asian Tour Order of Merit besides making him the leader in career earnings on the Asian Tour.

He also became the first golfer to win more than $One million in a single season on Asian Tour.

“I could not have asked for more. I am a very fortunate to win here. Ernie and Padraig put up a good effort. The golfing gods are on my side so I am breathing much better now,” said Jeev, who won a tournament in Europe and Japan earlier this year.

Philippa Stewart, the physio on the Asian Tour, may well become Jeev’s lucky charm. Still dogged by a neck-and-shoulder strain, which necessitated a physio session in the 90 minutes between the third and fourth rounds, Jeev said: “She helped me in Indian Open (where he was fourth) and again here before the third round and again today before fourth. In fact it is people like her, who make this Tour so great. Otherwise many of us who play a lot would not be able to make it.”

“I had a one-shot lead coming to the last. I was not hitting my driver that well so I took a three wood - at least confirm a five and if you make a four great. I was fortunate the other guys did not make a four,” said Singh.

Jeev, leading by a shot at the 18th tee, had displayed sense of calm by playing for a par that was sure to transfer the pressure onto Harrington and Els, who needed to birdie the 18th to get into play-off.

Jeev went right off the tee into the bunker. But even as he played safe for a five he had a great third shot reaching the green. His birdie putt from 15 feet curled away from the cup’s lip when it was a mere millimetres away from falling in it.

Harrington, playing a brave second shot on 18th, went for the green and the ball stopped right on top of the mound. It hung in there for Harrington to tap it in the hope of an eagle that could have taken him ahead of Jeev. He was five feet short, needing to make the birdie putt to force a play-off but he instead pushed his shot right for only a par that left him one short.

Jeev went off to submit the card and then watched Els on TV inside.

Els, in the group behind, was in the bunker in two. A brilliant bunker shot saw him come to 15 feet off the hole. Then his 15-footer curled round the lip of the hole.

That handed Jeev his third victory of the season, with his seven-under-par 277 earning him $792,500.

The win virtually sealed the Asian Tour Order of Merit title for Jeev, which traditionally gets an invite to The Augusta Masters, but Jeev may well be inside top-50 of the world to earn it even otherwise.

“I had a couple of good breaks earlier on and I was able to hold it together. The shot to 16 for the double bogey was unlucky and I hit a lovely shot into the last and I was six inches away from having a chance for eagle,” said Harrington.

“I’ve holed some great putts at the right time this year. I’m not going to feel good about this one but when I look back at my year I won’t find it too bad. I’m delighted for Jeev.”

Els was one over for the round through 12 but a 20-foot birdie on 16 kept him in the title hunt. However, a poor drive on 18 left him with an outside chance for birdie which he missed from 15 feet.

“The gods were not with me,” said Els. “It could have been a win. But Jeev is a great guy and I’m happy for him,” said the South African, known as the Big Easy.

The 36-year-old Indian was ecstatic. “There are too many landmarks. At the end of the day you just want to play good golf and if these things come your way it is fantastic.”

Mark Brown of New Zealand, leader on the Order of Merit would have to win all four remaining Asian Tour events this season to deprive Jeev of his second Merit crown in three years. But organisers said Brown was not entered for at least two of the events.

Jeev began the fourth round after playing his last four holes in the morning. Along with Harrington, he was five shots adrift of Thailand’s Chapchai Nirat and Els was four behind.

Chapchai had a horrible start with three bogeys in four holes that threw the tournament wide open. He fell of and ended tied seventh, at 281.

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and Australia David Gleeson were joint fourth on 279, with South Korea’s Charlie Wi sixth a shot further back.

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