Indian golf on upswing in 2007

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Jeev Milkha Singh could not come anywhere close to replicating last year's phenomenal success, which yielded four titles.

Updated: December 31, 2007 11:56 IST
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New Delhi:

A couple of Asian Tour titles by seasoned campaigners may not count for much but Indian golf was clearly on the upswing as the year gone by set the tone for a bumper 2008 with mega co-sanctioned events lined up in the country.

Individually, however, it turned out to be an average season for the country's top-ranked pro Jeev Milkha Singh, who could not come anywhere close to replicating last year's phenomenal success, which yielded four titles.

After the high of reaching 37th in the world rankings in 2006, Jeev had to settle for 77th at the end of this year.

The 36-year-old failed to defend the four titles -- Volvo Masters of China and Volvo Masters of Europe and a couple of Japan Tour trophies -- that he won last year.

The best that he could manage was tied third at the Japan Tour's season-ending Nippon Series JT Cup and even this seemed disappointing, considering the defending champion was within touching distance of holding on to the title.

Where even a bogey would have forced a play-off, Jeev ended up with a double bogey on the last hole which dropped him to a tie for third.

After a punishing 40-week schedule over the past couple of years, the golfing nomad decided to take a break and will resume playing in January with the Royal Trophy between Asia and Europe in Thailand.

In contrast, it turned out to be an astounding year for Jyoti Randhawa, who became only the second player, after Australian legend Peter Thomson, to lift three Indian Open titles to continue his love affair with the Delhi Golf Club.

The 35-year-old also made his debut at the year's fourth major, the PGA Championship in August, but packed off after playing just four holes, wilting under the excruciating temperatures at the Southern Hills Course in Oklahama.

The experience in the United States may not have been all that pleasing for the Delhi pro but he made sure that his European sojourn remained pleasant.

In November, Randhawa capped a decent run in the European Tour by signing off tied ninth in the Volvo Masters of Europe at the Club de Golf Valderrama in Sotogrande, Spain.

He ended a creditable 33rd in the European Tour's Order of Merit after pocketing Euro 849,895 from 26 tournaments.

At home, he captured the AIS Open in April before wresting the DLF Masters in May, taking time off his European schedule to adhere to his commitment as a founder member of the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI).

Besides, he also held on to his postion as Indian's second best golfer, finishing the year 87th in world rankings.

Gaurav Ghei also had reason to smile after he won the inaugural Pine Valley Beijing Open to add a third Asian Tour title to his credit.

Ghei's consistent form on the Asian Tour saw him close at 10th on the Order of Merit with earnings of USD 261,057 from 20 tournaments.

The 38-year-old also had a reasonably good run at home with top-10 finishes in the AIS Golf Open, Color Plus Open and the DLF Masters.

He also teamed up with Randhawa in the Missions Hills Golf World Cup but while the latter was in red hot form, Ghei's niggling shoulder and neck problems meant the Indian duo had to content with a tied 17th finish in the event won by Scotland.

Meanwhile, after a breakthrough season in 2005, in which he won the Volvo Masters of Asia besides being named the Asian Tour rookie of the year, title drought continued for Shiv Kapur but the young golfer did well enough to earn USD 239,085 in 11 Asian Tour events for a 12th place finish in the Order of Merit.

Elsewhere, Indian-born Swede Daniel Chopra, made waves with his maiden PGA Tour win in the Ginn Sur Mer Classic at Tesoro Club, Florida.

The title came after a frustrating 14-year wait and soon Chopra was in sight of his maiden European Tour title at the Mastercard Masters in Australia but three-putted for a bogey in a nail-biting play-off to hand the trophy to local challenger Aaron Baddley.

Not surprisingly, the 34-year-old, a product of the DGC Junior Golf programme and a close friend of Jeev, is now in contention for a place in the European Ryder Cup team.

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