x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Jeev Milkha Singh joins Anirban Lahiri at British Open

Double delight for Indian golf fans as son of Olympic icon Milkha Singh lifts the Scottish Open trophy.

Jeev Milkha Singh will be in action at the British Open. David Moir / Reuters
Jeev Milkha Singh will be in action at the British Open. David Moir / Reuters

India’s Jeev Milkha Singh captured his fourth European Tour title today when he birdied the first play-off hole to defeat Italy’s Francesco Molinari and claim the Scottish Open.

The 40-year-old Jeev, who has a long-standing attachment with Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai, also booked his place in the British Open next week by reaching the play-off against the overnight leader. He is the second Indian to qualify for the major championship after Anirban Lahiri.

Jeev, who had been five shots off the lead going into the final round, hit a five-under 67 to finish on 17-under par for the tournament.

Molinari held his nerve to birdie the final hole for a par 72 to send the tournament into a sudden death play-off.

But back on the 18th, Molinari left his birdie putt well short while Jeev confidently held his testing 15-footer to add the Scottish Open to his wins at the 2006 China Open and Volvo Masters as well as the 2008 Austria Open.

Jeev’s best performance this season had been a seventh place finish at the Stockholm Masters in June.

“I think the last tournament in Ireland and here have extended my love for this type of golf. I have always loved links golf. You need to use imagination and intelligence,” said Jeev.

“Coming from India I didn’t know a lot about it but I just love it.”

Jeev’s father Milkha was known as “The Flying Sikh”, most famous for losing out on an Olympic 400 metres medal in a photo-finish in Rome in 1960.

A Bollywood film is currently being made about his life called Go Milkha Go, but on the final day in the Highlands it was a case of “Go Jeev Go”.

Meanwhile, Lahiri – a two-time winner on the Asian Tour – is eagerly awaiting his major debut at the British Open.

"Of the four majors, the Open and the Masters are probably the hallowed events," Lahiri, 25, said. "Growing up, that's where you want to be. It's been a dream of mine. I'm really fortunate and privileged that I will be a part of an event like this. It's an opportunity to move my game into the next level."

In preparation for the biggest challenge in his career, Lahiri visited Royal Lytham and St Annes in early June with his coach and played several rounds to get used to links golf.

"I think it was good that I managed to go there early to get a feel for the course. It was a great experience and it sets me up for the Open," he said.

"I played a couple of rounds and fortunately, the winds switched, which was good. It gave me a great look at how things might be."

However, what he saw last month left him fully aware of what he will face this week in unfamiliar conditions.

The closest an Asian player has come to winning the British Open was in 1971 when Lu Liang-huan of Taiwan finished second behind Lee Trevino of the United States.

"It's going to be a new experience," Lahiri said. "It'll be hard to say if I'm going to be overawed. It'll be the best field I'll be in. I've played in some big events, played with Phil [Mickelson] before. But the Open is a whole different ball game.

"It is a very tough course. There are 208 bunkers and all of them are in play depending on the wind. It can be so severe if the wind switches."

Lahiri won the Panasonic Open India last year for his first Tour victory and followed up with a second win earlier this season at the Sail-SBI Open, which was also on home soil.

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