Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Singh on song

Jeev Milkha Singh

Indian Jeev Milkha Singh outshone Ireland's four major stars with a dazzling eight under par 63 when the Irish Open began at Killarney on Thursday.

The 39-year-old son of a former Olympic sprinter known as 'The Flying Sikh' came out of the blocks with an eagle and six birdies to equal the lowest round of his career.

It was six strokes better than Darren Clarke, who recovered well from hitting his first shot as Open champion into a hazard, seven better than US Open champion Rory McIlroy, nine better than last year's US Open winner Graeme McDowell and 10 better than three-major winner Padraig Harrington.

Another of the Irish contingent, former Ryder Cup hero Paul McGinley, described Singh's putting as the best he had ever seen.

"I don't know whether it was a good thing or a bad thing, but 59 did cross my mind," said the three-time Tour winner, now outside the world's top 200 after suffering shoulder and back injuries last season.

The thought came when he had four holes to play. He needed to birdie them all, but even though he "only" parred them he was still three clear of the field as he spoke afterwards. The eagle came courtesy of a 30-foot putt on the 513-yard seventh, but what gave him most confidence happened last Sunday in Sweden.

In strong winds the par three island green 17th was a nightmare for most of the field - Steve Webster took 11 and Fredrik Andersson Hed a 12 - but Singh made only of only three birdies. Sixth place there was his best finish on the circuit for more than two years and now his sights are aimed much higher.

Most of the 18,000 crowd, though, had come to see their own leading lights and Clarke said of his walk up the 18th: "I felt like I was winning a tournament - it's been very special."

The 42-year-old is still under the weather after his post-Open celebrations last week were followed by a "self-inflicted" dose of flu, but he was not seeking any excuses, adding: "I didn't come here to make up the numbers. I hit a lot of good shots and had lots of chances, but didn't quite have the speed of the greens."

McIlroy reached four under after 10 early in the day and led by two - Singh had not even teed off by then - but bogeyed the 11th and went in water for a closing double bogey.

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