Jeev trips at the finish line, finishes second

March 16th, 2008 - 5:39 pm ICT by admin  


Jeju Island (South Korea), March 16 (IANS) For the second time in four weeks, Jeev Milkha Singh faltered at the doorsteps of victory and finished runner-up at the inaugural Ballantine’s Championships here Sunday. Jeev lost in the third play-off hole to Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell. At one stage, the Indian led McDowell by three shots and it looked like smooth sailing as he was hitting the ball superbly.

Jeev, who held a share of the top spot when play started this morning, carded a final round of six-under 66 and ended in a tie with McDowell at 24-under 264 after regulation play.

Jeev had four amazing rounds of 68, 66, 64 and 66 but the bogey on the 17th proved crucial as that opened the door for McDowell to get into a play-off.

“It was terribly disappointing to have come so close and not make it. That 17th proved to be the crucial hole,” said Jeev.

“But I am very happy with my overall game. A score of 24-under is satisfactory under any circumstances, but having come this close it is an empty feeling to finish second.

“Maybe I will just take the positives and I am sure there are better things in store for me,” said Jeev, who played the whole of this week with a ligament injury on his right leg and a bout of flu, which dogged him all through.

Jyoti Randhawa (67) finished tied 11th that snapped his streak of top-10 finishes. Jyoti has been in top-10 for the last five weeks. Gaurav Ghei (72) was 57th.

In the morning, Jeev seemed to be cruising to victory as he birdied three of the first four holes. At that stage he was 21-under and three clear of McDowell, with whom he had shared overnight lead.

Jeev started with a par but birdied the next three holes to pull ahead as McDowell birdied the third and bogeyed the fourth. By the turn, Jeev was still two shots ahead.

On the back nine, Jeev birdied the tenth, but McDowell eagled the same to close the gap to one. That gap stayed as Jeev and Mcdowell fought neck and neck.

McDowell birdied the 12th to tie with Jeev, but the Indian nosed ahead again with a birdie on 13th. It happened again on 15th when McDowell birdied the hole to draw level only to see Jeev inch ahead with a birdie on 16th.

With a lead of one, Jeev needed to hold, but a horrible tee shot on 17th saw him finish with a bogey. Both parred the tough final hole, with Jeev holing a clutch putt from 10 feet to get into a play-off.

The players halved the first two times on the 18th and then the third time, Jeev had a great pitch to leave himself a five-footer, but McDowell went one better coming to less than two feet. Jeev missed the putt and McDowell holed it to clinch his first title in four years.

This was the second runner-up finish for Jeev, who was also second at the Astro Enjoy Indonesia Open four weeks ago.

It was the fifth European Tour in succession in which Indians had at least one player in top-five. Indians have won two events, finished second in two and came fifth in one event.

Paul McGinley (67) finished third at 17-under 271 and Shingo Katayama of Japan shot 69 to finish fourth at 15-under 273.

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