SINGAPORE // The Indian golfer Jeev Milkha Singh was a relieved man after missed putts by his rivals helped him to a one-stroke victory at the Singapore Open, virtually securing him the Asian Tour order of merit title. Singh finished the US$5 million (Dh18.3m) tournament on an overall total of seven-under-par 277, but could only look on as first playing partner Padraig Harrington and then South Africa's Ernie Els shaved the cup with birdie putts at the last that would have forced a playoff.
"To be honest, it still hasn't sunk in," Singh said, after becoming the first player to earn more than US$1m on the Asian Tour. "I couldn't have asked for better, honestly I think I am a very fortunate man to win. "Those boys put a good effort out there, Ernie and Padraig. I think the golfing gods were on my side and I am breathing much better now." Singh and Harrington began the final round five shots behind leader Chapchai Nirat but as the Thai slid down the leader board, the 36-year-old Indian moved to the top on nine-under with four birdies in his opening 12 holes.
A bogey at the 14th left Singh level with Harrington but the Irishman double-bogeyed the 16th when his approach shot skipped off the green and into the lake. Singh also bogeyed the hole to carry a shot lead into the final two holes "I started looking at the leader boards and knew I had a one-shot lead coming into the last. I wasn't hitting my driver that well so took a three-wood. "I told myself to at least confirm a five (par), if you make a four that would be great. I was very fortunate the other guys didn't get a birdie so I am very happy."
The US$792,500 first prize takes Singh past the US$1m mark on the Asian Tour order of merit and the Indian is almost certain to top the standings for a second time. "Winning the order of merit in 2006 was great and to win it again this year is special," he added. "This is the tour where I started and to top the standings again would be fantastic. "I was happy I could win against the top players in the world and this will give me a lot of confidence to move on to better things."
Complaining of fatigue earlier in the week, the globe-trotting Singh admitted that finding himself in the thick of a title-fight was just the fillip he needed. "I was tired at the start of the week but when you get into the hunt for a title all the tiredness goes," he said. "That's when you just work on becoming stronger and focusing on what is in front of you. That's what I was trying to do." *Reuters