Singh Soars to Memorable Win at Volvo China Open

Sun 16 Apr 2006

Singh Soars to Memorable Win at Volvo China Open

Beijing, April 16: Jeev Milkha Singh claimed an emotional victory at the US$1.8 million Volvo China Open on Sunday to end a seven-year title drought and become the second Indian to win a European Tour-sanctioned event.

The 34-year-old Singh carded a final round two-under-par 70 at the Beijing Honghua International Golf Club for a 10-under par winning total of 278, a shot clear of Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, with England’s David Lynn, the third round leader, a further shot adrift in third.

It was the biggest career victory yet for Singh which moved him to the top of the Asian Tour's UBS Order of Merit and gave him the final proof that his years in the wilderness following a succession of injury setbacks after the turn of the century, were over.

He was the first Indian golfer to qualify for the European Tour in 1997 and his courageous final day performance in the Chinese capital ensured he once again wrote his name in the history books and joined Arjun Atwal as a winner on the European Tour.

“This is fantastic,” said Singh, who earned US$300,000 with his fifth Asian Tour title. “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 I was getting down. And after that, you don't think right. I started working hard and the wrist became better and things started looking better for me. I've just won and it's one of the best feelings.

“I just can't explain this. 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 perfect for me. I'm really excited and happy the way it worked out.”

One shot adrift of playing partner Lynn at the start of the day, proceedings did not start promisingly for Singh when he bogeyed the opening hole by missing the green. But he regrouped manfully and birdies at the third, fifth and seventh holes saw him reach the turn in 34 and one shot clear at the top of the leaderboard as Lynn turned in level par 36.

Singh stayed two clear of the field heading to the 18th hole, the most difficult during the week, and he played it safe. "My composure was good. Coming into 18, I saw Gonzalo was 10 under and he had bogeyed the 18th. I was on the leftside on the fairway in the rough and I decided that I wasn't going to be a hero and go for the flag and was going to play safe. If I made bogey, I'd still win the tournament," said Singh, who bogeyed his last hole.

Defending champion Paul Casey of England challenged briefly but bogeys at the 10th and 11th holes blew the air out of the Ryder Cup player’s tyres and he eventually had to settle for a share of fourth on 271 with Australians Peter Fowler and Jarrod Lyle and fellow Englishman Simon Wakefield.

Lynn, who had led from the halfway stage, was in the thick of the battle when he rolled in a 10-footer for birdie on the 10th green. But then, as quickly as his putting touch had returned, it disappeared, and his inability to find the bottom of the cup cost him the chance of his second European Tour title.

The 32 year old three-putted the 13th for bogey, followed that with another three putt for par at the long 14th, and when he went on then to also three putt the 15th for bogey, he knew that the chance to follow up his win in the 2004 KLM Open had gone.

“I want to try and win more tournaments so I feel like I have let this one slip a little bit to be honest,” said Lynn, who eventually carded a 73 for 280 to take third place. “But it is still a good finish, I have to take the positives out of it – it is another top three finish."

Fernandez-Castano got to within a stroke of Singh with a superb birdie on 17 when he struck an impeccable six iron from the sand which finished a mere five feet from the pin for birdie. But his hopes dipped dramatically when he pulled his drive into the woods at the last and had to chip out one handed and backwards on his way to a bogey five, a 70, and second place outright.

“I had a good number of birdie chances and it was a shame because my putting was okay but not enough went in," he said. “It was a shame about the drive on the 18th which cost me a bogey because it is a difficult hole to par to win a tournament and I would have liked to have parred it to put a little bit of pressure on Singh."

Singh also became the third Asian, after Korea's Charlie Wi and Singaporean Mardan Mamat, to taste success in a co-sanctioned event this season.

Leading final round scores

278 - Jeev Milkha Singh (IND) 72-69-67-70

279 - Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (ESP) 67-74-68-70

280 - David Lynn (ENG) 68-67-72-73

281 - Jarrod Lyle (AUS) 68-71-72-70, Peter Fowler (AUS) 71-70-69-71, Simon Wakefield (ENG) 67-73-70-71, Paul Casey (ENG) 71-68-70-72

282 - Peter O'Malley (AUS) 72-72-70-68, Wang Ter-chang (TPE) 69-72-71-70

283 - Paul Lawrie (SCO) 73-70-73-67, Simon Dyson (ENG) 67-72-73-71, Peter Hanson (SWE) 67-72-73-71, Prayad Marksaeng (THA) 69-67-72-75

284 - Brett Rumford (AUS) 69-75-71-69

285 - Richard Sterne (RSA) 72-72-70-71, Prom Meesawat (THA) 71-72-71-71, Jose Filipe Lima (POR) 67-69-77-72, Peter Lawrie (IRL) 71-70-72-72, Marcus Fraser (AUS) 70-71-69-75

286 - Christian Cevaer (FRA) 66-72-79-69, Amandeep Johl (IND) 75-70-72-69, Marc Cayeux (ZIM) 71-65-80-70, Henrik Stenson (SWE) 73-68-74-71, Damien Mcgrane (IRL) 72-70-73-71, Jean Van De Velde (FRA) 74-68-73-71, Chawalit Plaphol (THA) 72-70-72-72, Hendrik Buhrmann (RSA) 72-68-71-75