London: Jeev Milkha Singh literally caught the last train to the Royal Lytham and St Anne’s after booking a berth to the British Open with a dramatic victory in the Scottish Open play-off.
The 40-year-old, a former top-50 player, finished his flawless round of 67 to become the clubhouse leader and then waited for more than an hour tucking into his favourite chocolate cake and sipping tea to suddenly find himself in the play-off with Francesco Molinari at Castle Stuart.
Even Jeev did not expect anything dramatic as Marc Warren, three ahead at one stage, seemed to be running away.
“Frankly, I think I never expected myself to be in the play-off. I was just enjoying a cup of tea and some chocolate cake. I said, ‘it’s an hour I’ve got, my flight is at 8.30 pm out of Aberdeen’. I thought I would see the finish and then leave for the airport,” he explained.
“As the chocolate cake and tea were going down, it got very exciting on the golf course and I was fortunate to get into a playoff. (In the play-off) I left myself a good birdie chance.
“Earlier in the last hole (18th of regulation) I had a similar putt but I left it short. I said (to myself), you left that short, but this one, don’t. Give yourself a chance. I hit a good putt, and it went in,” he added.
It was a win that brought Jeev a huge bag of goodies, none better than a berth into the British Open beginning Thursday at the Royal Lytham and St Annes.
It was virtually the last chance for anyone to qualify excepting the reserves moving up due to withdrawals.
Jeev’s fourth win on European Tour making him the most successful Indian on the European Tour, also moved him inside top-15 on European Tour, making it easier for him to make the season-ending Race to Dubai event.
The world ranking also pushed him inside top-90 and he could by the end of the year realistically look at getting into top-50, which could see him return to the coveted Masters next April.
Jeev also gained a berth into the 2012 WGC — Bridgestone Invitational and the 2012 WGC — HSBC Champions besides the 2013 Volvo Golf Champions.
Even before he went into the play-off the ever-vigilant Jeev realised he had made the British Open as the top-finisher in top-5 not otherwise qualified.
So, before getting to the 18th tee for the play-off, he called his management company to book him accommodation at Royal Lytham and St Anne’s.
“Oh that was a nice feeling,” said Jeev, who minutes later won the title itself in the play-off. “Initially, after the round I thought I will just go home. I’ve got a place in London. After that I was going to take a flight back to India and spend time with the family. But things changed after I got into a playoff.
“I knew I was going to be in British Open. So I had to call up my management company, and told them I think I need accommodation for next week,” said Jeev.
“It’s all the icing on the cake. I think the chocolate cake was fantastic. I think I have to have it every single time I finish my round, and a cup of tea (laughing),” he added.
Jeev last won in December 2008 in Japan and his last win on European Tour came at the Austrian Open in June 2008.
At the end of the fourth round, Jeev, who had started the day five behind the leader, felt he was a couple of shots short despite the fine 67.
“I thought I left myself a few shots short of getting into a playoff. But the golfing gods were kind to me and I got into a playoff and I won it,” said Jeev.
Talking of Links golf, Jeev said, “Growing up in India, I never played in links golf and wind. But playing on The European Tour, I’ve used to it and I changed my game to be a wind player. I like playing in the wind and I like links golfer because it requires a lot of imagination and feel. So I’m looking forward to the British Open.”