124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2

The Loop

India's Singh Contending at Doral

March 21, 2008

MIAMI--One of the three players tied for fourth at six under par after the second round of the WGC-CA Championship hadn't even gotten over his jet lag yet. Jeev Milkha Singh qualified to play at Doral when he lost to Graeme McDowell in a playoff at the Ballentine's Championship in South Korea last Sunday, moving him into the top 10 on the European Order of Merit and earning a fast trip to South Florida.

Though Singh didn't arrive in Miami until Tuesday night, he was planning on coming to the States anyway. The first Indian golfer ever to play in the Masters, Singh finished T-37 last year at Augusta and was invited back again in '08. In fact, Singh was in the Masters before he was in Doral.

"I'm in Abu Dhabi and I've missed the cut," Singh says. "I've had the flu for the whole week and I'm lying in bed. I mean, I'm beat up completely. I'm lying in bed and my mobile rings. Someone says, 'Hi, is this Jeev? This is Buzzy Johnson from the Augusta National Golf Club.' He said, 'Jeev, what are you doing?' I said, 'I'm lying in bed. I'm running with the flu.'

He said, 'Jeev, you better come out of bed because Augusta National extends the invitation for you.' I said, 'Buzzy, you know what, I'm out of bed. I'm jumping. My flu's gone.' " Singh even asked if he could confirm his acceptance over the phone or if he needed to do it in writing. Johnson allowed as how they'd take his word for it.

Singh, 36, who was awarded the Indian equivalent of a British knighthood, the Padma Shri, last year, has an unusual move at the top of his swing. A self-taught player, his club points well left of the target, then he reroutes it on the downswing. Singh's father, Milkha Singh, nicknamed the Flying Sikh, was an Olympic runner in the 400 meters, competing in the 1960 Olympics in Rome where he finished fourth, though all four runners broke what was, at the time, the world record.

Singh got to eight under par Friday before he double-bogeyed the ninth, his last hole of the day. "I played really well today and got lucky also," he said.

On the third hole, Singh's 12th, he drove it in the first cut but pushed his second shot into the water. He took a drop, then slam-dunked his fourth with a sand wedge from 68 yards to save par. "It was a bogey-free round until the ninth. I just hit it short of the flag in the rough, short of the bunker. Trying to get too cute with it, left it in the rough, chipped it on and two-putted for a double. Otherwise I think I handled myself really well today."

Singh birdied the fifth from inside three feet and the 16th from inside eight feet, in addition to birdies at the sixth and eighth, to finish six behind the halfway leader, Geoff Ogilvy.

--Jim Moriarty