Jeev's revival victory | Asian Tour

Jeev’s revival victory

Published on April 16, 2021

Jeev Milkha Singh enjoyed many great victories during his illustrious career but perhaps his finest was his memorable win in the Volvo China Open in 2006. It was his first success in seven years and opened the floodgates for three more wins that season and another five in the ensuing years. We look back at the victory – achieved on this day 15 years ago – in China’s capital city, which marked the Indian star’s revival.

Jeev Milkha Singh’s incredible success and endless list of firsts achieved for his country in the game gloss over the fact that there were some serious bumps in the road for the Indian legend.

When he claimed the Lexus International in Thailand in 1999 for his ninth win in Asia, and third on the Asian Tour, all seemed in order and his continued rise to stardom on the perfect trajectory.

BEIJING – APRIL 16: Jeev Milkha Singh of India with the winners trophy after the final round of the Volvo China Open at the Beijing Honghua International Golf Club on April 16, 2006 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

However, having already been a professional for seven years, the effect of pounding golf balls, week in, week out, finally caught up with him and he was beset by injuries – in particular, a career-threatening wrist injury.

He struggled, season after season, until the turning point – an epiphany of sorts – came in the world’s most populous country in the second week of April, 2006.

In the 12th staging of the Volvo China Open he emerged from a stressful seven-year drought to claim the title and signify his return to the topflight – much to the relief of his millions of fans.

He was 34 years old at the time and carded a final round 70 at the Honghua International Golf Club, in Beijing, for a 10 under par total of 278 to lift the trophy by one shot from Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.

BEIJING – APRIL 16: Jeev Milkha Singh of India celebrates with his caddy after winning the Volvo China Open at the Beijing Honghua International Golf Club on April 16, 2006 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Andrew Wong/Getty Images)

To say it was an emotional victory is an understatement and it gave him the final proof that his years in the wilderness were over.

“This is fantastic,” he said at the time. “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 feeling. 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 David Lynn from England at the start of the day, things did not start promisingly for Singh when he bogeyed the opening hole. But he regrouped bravely 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.

Fernandez-Castano tried his best to spoil Singh’s comeback win, especially on the 365-yard 17th.

The Spaniard hit a spectacular six-iron second shot, from sand, which finished five feet from the pin.

The resulting birdie three pulled him to within a shot of Singh, playing in the final match behind, but any real hope he had of forcing a play-off ended 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, a nine under par total of 279 and second place outright.

Singh, who had not dropped a shot all day since his blemish on the opening hole, made bogey on the last, three putting from 40 feet after his second shot landed on the front edge of the putting surface.

But it was enough to secure the title and restore his confidence and faith in his game.

Earlier in the day, a bizarre incident had threatened to thwart his challenge.

On the 11th hole his wayward drive ended in the woods, where a spectator picked up the ball and ran away with it, forcing Singh to ask permission from a tournament referee to replace it.

“My ball was down there and this guy was walking with my golf ball in his hand,” said Singh. “There were so many people saying so many things to him and he got confused and scared and just let the ball go.

“I just told him to relax, and the rules official came and told the guy to tell me where the ball stopped. The person asks him, and while he was doing it someone from the gallery came out and kicked him.”

It was the same calmness in the face of adversity that saw him go on to complete his comeback win and begin the most successful chapter in his career.