Jeev Milkha Singh pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the World Golf Championships - Accenture Matchplay Championship - in Tucson beating three-time Major winner, Padraig Harrington in the first round.
Singh, the world No. 60, won by 3 and 1 and his next clash will be against Matt Kuchar, who beat Anthony Kim 3 and 2.
His win brought back memories of his victory at the Volvo World Matchplay last year when he beat Lee Westwood in his opening match.
“I am very happy with the way I played. It was a solid round and I did not make many mistakes. What was good was that I came a couple of days earlier than scheduled after missing the cut in India, and the extra days were put to good use. I got over the jet-lag and also managed to put in some serious workout at the range,” Singh said.
“My putting was solid, especially on the back nine. In match play, whether you are playing someone as accomplished as Padraig, or the world No. 1000, you need to make the putts to close the match. It mostly comes down to a putting competition and I was lucky to hole a few.”
From his side, Harrington summed up the match, saying: “He out-putted me. I putted badly, he putted well. At the end of the day in match play, it’s huge who putts the best. Not to have the lead after the first eight holes, you know, he was in the driving seat in every one of them. I didn’t hole a 10-footer, but he holed them all. He played lovely.”
Singh and Harrington were locked in a close tussle for the first 12 holes, at which point there were all-square and suddenly the tide turned. Jeev sank all the putts that came his way and Harrington missed.
Singh fell behind back on the third hole, where he bogeyed the par-3, while Harrington birdied.
But the Indian fought back by winning the par-5 fifth, which Harrington parred. The two were neck and neck for the next seven holes, six of which both parred and par-5 11th, which both birdied.
On the 13th, Jeev birdied the par-5 and Harrington missed his birdie. In the very next, the par-4 14th, Jeev parred and Harrington bogeyed to go two-down. After halving the next two holes - both bogeyed the 16th - Jeev birdied par-3 17th and closed the match 3 and 1.
Making it a great day for Asian players was Thongchai Jaidee who beat Ross Fisher, winner of the Volvo World Match Play Championship in Spain last October, by 5 and 4. Also winning was US PGA Championship winner Y.E. Yang, who beat Soren Kjeldsen two and one.
“Maybe missing the cut in India (at Avantha Masters) turned out to be good in another way. I came early. I got over the jet lag. I got here on Saturday. Whatever happens, happens for a reason. My coach and I have worked hard the last few days. I got through the first round, and I’m looking forward to my second round match,” said Jeev.
On playing a player like Harrington, who is ranked higher than him, Jeev said, “I try to follow my routine and stay in the process and work on my rhythm. It was a lot of pressure on me, and I tried to save pars when I can and I did that today.”